Saturday, July 10, 2010

The morning after the night before

This is the result of staying out all night, picking fights with black cats and a very hot day.  Boy, Tripod sure was a cranky boy today.  At least in the moments he wasn't comotose...

See?  I could even get photos of him without him waking up and glaring at me or stomping off in disgust.

 While he slept, the ducks explored a bucket of water.  BD, the Muscovy, doesn't like sunshine directly on him and he doesn't like water.   So he puts his beak in the water then flaps his wings furiously as if he was totally submerged in the water, going through preening motions.  He's always been this way and at 9.5 years, he's not going to change.  Lucky, the Pekin, simply watches BD and waits his turn then virtually dives into the bucket, splashing water everywhere.

Friday, July 09, 2010

More explorations

This is a glimpse into a piece I'm exploring using gyotaku.  This brook trout is my guinea pig for a variety of compositions, techniques and washi papers.  I will also be using some prints to test wet mounting.  This is the method of backing the painting with another similar sheet of paper to strengthen it in preparation for framing.  It also eliminates any wrinkles that occur during the printing and colouring process.  I will be using wheat paste as the 'glue' and am hoping that this won't disturb the print or watercolour on the painting.  If it does, I guess dry mounting will be the other option, though more expensive.

I'm experimenting with a variety of Japanese papers until I find the ones that best suit my need and the needs of gyotaku.  These papers are so different from the usual art papers.  They're light, with tissue-like qualities in some, denser in others.  Some are machine produced and some hand made. Some have sizing, some not.  They range from $1.25 a sheet to $15 a sheet.  (I haven't dared print the $15 sheet yet).  The most expensive sheet of paper I've seen is $190 for a 32" x 72" sheet.  It is gold Fusuma and  I don't think that's in my budget and even if it were, I'd be holding my breath the whole time I was using it, waiting for something to go wrong.

As I experiment, I find out more and more about the potential of gyotaku simply by the printing and enhancing process.  There are endless options available to me in terms of enhancement. and the print technique is like unveiling a new gift each time I peel it off the fish.

The prints stand alone without any additions except painting an eye. The paper can act as the showcase using the colour as part of the piece or natural paper can be used which allows for additional enhancement of colour, backgrounds, shadowing, etc.   Enhancing with watercolour on paper that is very lightweight is fraught with problems.  Water spreads out uncontrollably but I'm now able to get more control by knowing what mediums hold in the water, just how much pressure to use on the paper and where exactly it will spread.

I thought coloured pencils may be useful, but find a sharpened point is death to lightweight paper.  It pierces it easily or pills the surface if I rub a blunter pencil over it.  I think watercolour will be my medium of choice, and great care taken with it.  Pastel can work if very lightly applied as I want to print to show through clearly and have the colour tint it.

I am in the process of creating the content for a gyotaku workshop which will be held in March 2011 in St. John's.  More details on that once content and venue are finalized.  All I can tell you is that it will be a one day workshop that will enable participants to go home with a number of beautiful fish prints and a lot of knowledge.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Brook trout

Brook trout
9 x 12  graphite

A friend provided me with some local brook trout which I gratefully accepted.  Two were scheduled for the freezer for a later date and one to work with now.  This is a life (or should that be death) sketch of the fish.  

The coloration in this fish is quite appealing and an intimate view of fish reveals a lot of detail that we miss in most other dealings we have with them.  They are quite exquisite in form and engineering.  The colours and patterning is complex and perfectly designed for their environment.

I'm sure this sounds odd to many.  Its just a fish they say.  When was the last time you really looked at a fish?  Try it.  You'll be amazed.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Banana kiss update

I've been working on several pieces at once, as I usually do, as well as putting together a new artist statement.  There are so many things going on in my head, if one could see inside it would consist of many rooms all filled with activity and new projects being plunked down on the table in each room sometimes before the first has even gotten underway.

And for me, that's pretty much the norm.  I sometimes wonder if other creative people's mind work similarly, then another thought comes in and moves the first away for later.

Last night and early this morning I started adding some colour to the drawing that I did on Sunday.  Its fairly basic values right now but will start getting some form soon.  This is the banana flavour of this brand of candy, not a flavour I like and the colour of the candy inside the wrapper is about the same colour as the wrapper itself.  An unwrapped candy is yet another piece in the pipeline.

Meanwhile, I'm still printing fish as and when I get them.  Later this month the food fishery starts so I will be able to access some whole cod.  Yes, on this island, we receive permission from the government for a week or two a year to go catch a fish that has been one of the world's staples for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  No, I won't get into that debate now.  Its long and heated.

I also have a side series of fish images in oils on fairly large canvasses.  One down, two or three to go.  I will be setting a date and venue for the workshop I have planned for gyotaku in the spring.  Yes it seems a long way off, but time flies by and I want to have the basics in place so its one less thing to think about.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


We're all guilty of it at one time or another.  We push ahead, wanting to move into what we believe is the better place.  A place more interesting or one that will enable us to do what we enjoy more or to fulfil more quickly the vision that is in our heads.

For those that know me, they'll know that I mean the drawing.  For me, the underdrawing of a painting, especially watercolour or a portrait is a crucial element.  It is the backbone of the piece and without it, the chances of achieving that vision in my head usually fail.

Of course there are loose impressionistic pieces that can become something wonderful with the right brushstrokes and colour values under experienced hands.  But I need that groundwork to guide me, especially in complex pieces such as this one.

I spent most of this afternoon creating the drawing for a new painting.  Its another Purity Kisses piece, that chewy candy that is produced here.  I think part of the appeal for me is the drawing.  I love the complexity of the folds and lettering and how it bends and distorts as the paper folds over itself.

This is on 200lb watercolour paper and measures 15 x 22.