Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Almost Autumn (at the cabin)

The Labor Day weekend is fast approaching, but not as quickly as the 1st of September.  I can not get my mind wrapped around the idea that it is almost autumn.  In the early mornings I can smell it coming, that special smell that speaks of pumpkins and orange and golden leaves falling, of crisp nights and (hopefully) Indian Summer days.  But for right now, at the cabin, it is still summer.  It's green and sunny and warm.

The view from the front windows, down onto the dairy farm just across the river, is of wide green meadows and busy farmers making hay (while the sun shines!).

The daisies are in full, glorious bloom in wide swaths around the house....

....and the hollyhocks are taller than I am and bursting with blossoms.

But, soon, much too soon, the leaves will start to turn.  The maples will go all gold and orange, the larches will turn bright yellow and then all their needles will fall and the views from every window will be beautiful, but autumnal.  I am not ready for autumn.  I still feel like we didn't, really, get much of a summer and I am not ready for the long, gray days of November, December, January and on and on and on....
Even though the sunsets through the bare limbs of the stand of trees that marks the beginning of the road to the cabin are a wonder to behold....

....and the cabin will be all snugged in, with the maples turning spectacular colors all around.....


....and every weekend there will be many fishermen trying their skills in the river below the cabin, I am not ready. 

 And then much, much too soon, the frosts will come and the leaves will be gone.  The rains of November will be upon us.  

Just how soon will we have snow this year?  And how much will we have?  Will I be unable to get to the cabin for months at a time, like that miserable winter a few years back?  

I have to admit that as I get older,  I yearn more for the sun than ever before.  I want it to warm my skin and seep down into my bones.  I want flowers and birdsong and blue skies.  I will just have to  be grateful to be surrounded with a bounty of quiet beauty, even if it is of a colder, more subtle variety.

I will look forward to Christmas and having ALL my family home,  gathered together, and it will be a fine first Christmas for Rawlings---a fine Christmas for all of us.

But, really, isn't it much too soon for it to be autumn?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Own Personal Poetry Sunday

I have spent a quiet couple of hours rereading a lot of Mary Oliver's wonderfully insightful and observant poetry.  She fills me up with true things.  In case you might be in the mood for something inspiring, I will share only this one poem with you tonight, Dear Reader,  and wish you a happy and fulfilling week to come.

The Journey by Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Black & White Collaborative Color Journal Pages

I belong to a Color Collaborative Journal group.  We have done several journals in the last two years.  I love my collection of these color journals, all of which feature pages by individual members and all are original artwork.  The members of this group are an amazingly talented group of woman and I have felt honored to be included.  This is, alas, our last journal.  I thought long and hard about how I wanted to express my feelings on black and white and finally decided that prints were the best way to go.

Each page in the journal will be 9 inches tall and 6 inches wide.  There is a back page as well as a front, so my pages, 9 inches by 12 inches, fold in half to make the proper size.  I have used my recently carved woodblock from the NPS workshop in Colorado as the featured artwork for the front of my page  in the journal.  I added some washi tape to jazz it up a little.

I did a foilographic feather print on the back.  I didn't get a great image, but it was first time using this technique.  I enjoyed the learning process, and the outcome was acceptable.  (I should have read and reread the very clear and concise instructions that are available on Charles Morgan's website.  Charles is a long time member of the Nature Printing Society and is a master at nature printing.  I will retry foilography soon, using Charles' directions.  I expect I'll have a much better result.  But, I digress....again!)

I had promised myself that I would get these pages done without counting down to the last second before the deadline of August 31st.  Well, I guess I met that goal, but barely.  They are in the mail, at any rate, and the lovely Mary Mouat will be receiving them in good time.  Mary is a member of the Color Collaborative Journal group and has volunteered to do the binding this time around.  Thanks, Mary!

And finally, on a silly note, here is a photo my friend Bee created on her iphone with some app she has.  (You might surmise that she had some free time on her hands while we were in Colorado.  Free time + iphone + app = silliness.)  My poor cat, Orcie, was one of the subjects she altered.  I will spare you the ones she did of me.  They are, ahem, not fit for a family blog being just too scary.  My Orcie is odd to start with, of course, being a cat, but he usually doesn't wear sunglasses.  I think he might like to wear them, but I, being a rotten and horrible person, refuse to purchase them for him.  The mustache, though, is just too much, don't you think?  He sort of reminds me of Tom Selleck.  (My apologies, Mr. Selleck.)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer 2011 Travel Journals

I have been on two great trips this summer and I am happy with the journals I did for each.  I thought I'd share a few pages from each of the journals.  They are not precisely visual journals but they are not "diaries," just my sort of conglomeration style of journaling.

This is the journal I did for the Nature Printing Society workshop in Fort Collins, Colorado.  Besides the usual inclusions (for me!) I have also written down the instructions I received for each of my classes at the workshop.  In the future, if I misplace the print-outs of the instructions I will always be able to go back to my journal to find my notes and the instructor's tips.

The red fish print, to the left, is my first attempt at a direct gyotaku print.  Not great, but it is nice to have my first ever attempt.  I do like the eye I did on the top fish.

Here, too, is one of my first attempts at printing an octopus.

The fabric for the covers of the journal were solar printed.

Here you have the front and back covers of my Nantucket journal for this summer.  The front image of the weather vane is from the Nantucket Historical Association.  I love the whale!  The image on the back cover is from a painting I did of the red boat in the harbor in Nantucket harbor.

The pottery featured on the above page is R. Geering Pottery, from Cape Cod.  I love Ron's work and think his redware is fun and unique.

The fish image is from a gyotaku used on the 2011 NPS calendar and is taken from Chris Dewees' beautiful print of a rock fish.  I used Chris' image as the basis for a weather vane I made in a class at the 1800 House in July.  Thanks for the use of your beautiful gyotaku, Chris.  It made a wonderful weather vane.

The photo of the woman holding the cake is of Madaket Millie Jewett.  Millie was an extremely interesting woman who lived a life of service.  The more I learn of her, the more I admire her giving heart and generous spirit, hidden beneath her gruff exterior.  She was not what most of us think of when we think of someone with great community service volunteering, but she did so much for her neighbors and mariners of Nantucket.

Each day I was on Nantucket I did a tiny little painting.  These were very quick little watercolors to capture for my memory some aspect of Nantucket.  It was something I tried in this journal for the first time and I think I will use it in the future.  Each little painting reminds me of a moment of my trip and brings back a whole flood of memories.  Easy to do, quick to execute and something that has lasting meaning for me.  I'm glad I stumbled on the idea!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

NPS 2011 Workshop

Ah.  You are wondering, Dear Reader, the meaning of the large cooler of fish?

Well, they were all used for printing.  Fish printing.  Gyotaku, to be exact.  Gyotaku just means fish printing in Japanese.  I did a lot of fish printing while at the NPS workshop in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado.  The Nature Printing Society has a workshop each year and many of the very talented members teach classes in their areas of expertise.  Since this was my first workshop and since there are so many members with great skill at gyotaku, that was my chosen area to explore at the workshop.

I must admit that I am fairly new to printing in general and until the start of the workshop, had never printed a fish in my life!  I had three great fish printing instructors and learned three different methods of printing.

My first class was in direct fish printing---where you ink the fish directly and then put a sheet of paper (gently!) over the inked surface.  Jack Schwartz was the instructor and he was a very good teacher.

Jack showed up how to clean our fish to remove any bacteria that would, in years hence, come to eat into our print and/or cause stains to the finished art.  You have to clean the fish with soap and water, then alcohol and more alcohol.  It was much more rigorous a procedure than I had imagined.

Once the fish is clean and dry and you have sealed it's various openings with crazy glue (!!!!), you need to cut and position supports for the fins and tail, so you will have a steady, flat surface to work on.

We used foam core and T-pins to elevate the fins and hold them in position.  Once the fins and tail have dried the way you position them, they stay in that shape and the pins are no longer necessary.

I chose a rock fish.  It was quite a lovely specimen and a fish for which I have a great fondness.  When I was a girl, my father and I used to take weekend fishing trips to Puget Sound or Hoods Canal.  Our favorite eating fish for these trips was rock cod.  Anything that reminds me of my father and those happy memories is okay by me.

Here are a couple of my fish direct fish prints, before I got the eyes painted in.  There is a lot of room for improvement, but Jack made the class a lot of fun and I had a really nice day printing my rock cod.  Once I was done, I cleaned the fish of ink and returned him to the ice chest so it was available for others to print as the week went on.

Here is my fish for the indirect fish printing class, taught by Lori Ann Loftus.  Lori taught the beginning indirect class.  I was amazed at all the steps involved with the indirect method, many more so than with the direct method.

As in the direct method of fish printing, the printer must first get their fish properly cleaned, dried and the openings sealed.  You must then dig out a spot for your fish to sit into on a piece of insulation board, trying to get the fish as flat as possible.  The fins and tail must be supported for them to print properly. You need to make stencils for the edges of the fish and the pectoral fin.  Once you've done all this, then you cover the entire fish with paste and gently ease a piece of silk onto the fish, working out the wrinkles, until the entire fish is covered.  Then you dry the silk-covered fish with a hair dryer or sit it out in the sun.  (Yes, the room did get to be rather pungent with the smell of warm fish!)

Once the silk is dried onto the fish, you are ready to start using tampos (a sort of pouncer made with a toothpick, silk batting and fine silk covering it all) to apply colored inks to the silk.  Because you are printing onto silk with the fish underneath, the process is indirect, but amazing detail is achieved with careful inking.  A well-done gyotaku of the indirect method will show every scale and every ridge of the fins of the subject fish.

In theory, it should take 30 pounces on one spot with an inked tampo before any color begins to show on the silk covering the fish.  To my mind this is just craziness!  I am not a patient person and all the masking and pouncing and tampo-ing and fussing required of the indirect method were not well suited to my impatient, get-on-with-it temperament!  Needless to say, my fish is lacking in finesse, but I surely do have a great deal of respect now for a well executed indirect fish print.  I will, however, not be using that method again!

Sharron Huffman led my third "fish" printing class.  What were were actually printing were octopuses.  That actually leads me to the question of just what, exactly, is the plural of octopus?    Well, I just happen to have a little video to answer that burning question......

Sharron Huffman turns out to be delightfully funny, terribly talented and an all-around lovely human being.  I just adored her class on printing the little critters and had more fun than I could have reasonably expected.

As in any method of gyotaku, you must first get  your octopus dry, dry, dry.  (And you have to seal up those pesky eyes and get the silt left by cleaning the octopus really dried out, too.)  We then used bits of paper towel to stuff the "heads" into a more normal shape.  (These octopuses come in 5 pound frozen blocks and are usually from Thailand or Vietnam.)

Once you get your specimen ready to print, you need to mask the area under the legs with paper and then ink the little guy with ink.  Sharron uses a foam brush in a pat and dab sort of movement.  She is careful not to leave brush strokes.

Once you get the body and legs nicely inked, you need to remove the masking paper and clean up any ink "glitches" with paper towel, baby wipes or Q-Tips.  You can see me cleaning up the background of my octopus in the above photo, taken by my friend Bee Shay.

My last class was with Maria Arango Diener.  Maria is a woodblock artist of great talent.  I love her work and learned so much from her.  Unlike all the fish printing I did earlier in the week, carving a relief printing block was something I had done before, so it was not a totally new art form for me.  I really enjoyed the class, partly because I was back in my comfort zone, but mostly because it was so much fun and I got so much useful information from Maria.  

I used a piece of wood that I found on the sidewalk one day on my way to lunch and a ginko leaf as my design elements and did a simplified sketch for my woodblock.

Each of the participants in the class was to pull 17 prints so we could exchange a print with each person in the group.  We all came away with a little portfolio of prints.  I was so impressed with the work done by the other artists and I was so happy to have a piece of their art to take away with me.

I was lucky enough to be in the same class with Bee, my buddy and roomie for this workshop.   She did a wonderful print of seahorses that she took from a relief print of a seahorse she had in her portfolio.

One of the nicest things about my time in Fort Collins turned out to be Fort Collins.  It's a lovely little city, home of Colorado State University (where we had our meeting and class rooms).  We all found that there were shops there for every taste.  I was especially thrilled to discover that Fort Collins had two bead shops!  Two!  And Jerry's Artarama, too.  I mean, for what more can one ask?  Oh, you want more?  Well, there's Screen Door Studios, a wonderful place to buy art, beads, baskets, one-of-a-kind sweaters and all sorts of amazing jewelry and I found way too many things there that had came home with me.  (Try packing three baskets from Ghana in your suitcase sometime!)  Fort Collins is pretty, interesting, restaurant-filled, friendly and a great place to spend some time.  I especially enjoyed Old Town and I was sorry to leave.

"Painting is just another way of keeping a diary."  Pablo Picasso