Saturday, July 17, 2010

Salt cod

Herring study 1

As and when I get fish, I'm printing them.  One of the challenges of this project is actually getting my hands on whole fish here.  Its a lot more difficult that I imagined it would be.   There is lots of fish in stores but its usually filleted with occasional whole fish found.  So I'm venturing further afield into the commercial fishery world and hope that I'll have more luck there even if it means some lengthy trips to get them.

The recreational food fishery begins on July 24 which means for a few weeks people can fish for ground fish but are limited in numbers caught daily and all ground fish are counted as part of the catch.  In 1992, the federal government put a moratorium on the northern cod industry in the province, throwing 30,000 fishermen out of work and making it impossible for people to catch a fish for food.

Today, a local lobster fisherman brought a classic Newfoundland staple - salt cod.  These are cod that were caught in the previous season, salted and dried and are a cultural icon of the province.  Salting and drying cod was the only method of preserving it many years ago and today the tradition remains in some smaller communities.  Its also a throwback to the Portugese connection too, where bacalao is a staple food.  The Portugese have had a strong fishing relationship with Newfoundland for hundreds of years.

I will keep a couple for eating and the other, now soaking in water to rehydrate, will turn into a print.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The birth of an art piece

I have ideas for a new piece going around in my head and I like to work out those ideas as studies and little thumbnails, as what's in my head and what comes out on paper usually needs a lot of adjustment.

It usually starts with sketches like the first shown and little notes doodled on any paper that is handy.  It then translates to tracing paper, then to the final form that it will take, whether enlarged, reduced, watercolour, oil, etc.
I rather like a little online drawing tool called Harmony.  Its so handy to quickly sketch out ideas using a mouse which is what I've done here.  I did this in colour then resaved it as a jpeg file then emailed it to myself, as I'd done this at lunchtime.  However, the file mysteriously changed colour and went very  black.  I'm not sure why.  So I redid it and have something similar here.
 I do have a graphic tablet and pen, but just can't be bothered to haul it out so used the mouse to draw this.  The pen would give me a lot more control but the mouse isn't bad for roughing things in.

It can and will change a lot between the initial concept and the final piece.  Some people don't like to work out composition or values or colour and just jump right into a piece.  I guess I'm methodical in some ways by wanting and needing to know my path and what I will take with me on the way.  I like making my mistakes early and learning from them.  Preferably not on an expensive sheet of paper!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I can do anything?

I completed a commissioned portrait which is now shipped off to its new owner.

This was done in coloured pencil on a softer Rives paper.  The image was from a photo of perhaps 1960s in black and white which I coloured based on a childhood photo that was supplied.  I wanted a grainier final image that would give a bit of sense of age to the piece and I think that worked.

There is always a heart in mouth moment while waiting for a client to approve a piece.  We always fear the worst, don't we?  I believe all artists have a degree of self doubt that clings and makes us wonder about our abilities to produce.  Is it a form of self protection, to brace ourselves for the worst possible outcome - that someone actually would voice our innermost fears?  Or is it engrained humility coming from years of parents and society telling you that you should not show your abilities to the world and be boastful?

These days parents go to other extremes and constantly tell children they can do anything, be anything, conquer the world.  That is fine to a degree, but in this little video clip, I wonder how much pumping up this child has on a daily basis and how hard the fall will be when she realizes at some point, likely outside the family unit, that she actually can't do everything she wants to do.  Reality and research shows that too much positive reinforcement for every little thing a child does or produces in life is as damaging as negativity in response to their activities.

I am the first to say that a person can achieve what they want, provided they are willing to put in the effort - the 10,000 hours.  I deal a lot with youth in my job and have found that they are frequently bound up in the 'I can do anything' mode but are not willing or able to put in the work to achieve it.  It is, in fact, the parents who often deal with the ins and outs that the youth should be.  Confused? I know I am.  The message that is sent is 'you can do anything you like, but I'll take care of the parts you don't enjoy'. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Banana kiss update

I've added some more layers to this painting and am at risk of turning it to mud.  The freshness that I started with seems to disappear and my hand chooses the wrong colour or the wrong value of colour and so on and so on.

I had this same issue when adding a watercolour tint to a fish print that I did this weekend. Its a bit like that nursery rhyme: "when she was good, she was very very good and when she was bad, she was horrid".   Painting and drawing seem to follow the same way.  Some days it flows effortlessly, some days its not worth going into the studio as things do not turn to gold but to sawdust.

I will leave this piece for a few days then go back and see what I can salvage.  I keep trying to analyse why I can't produce what I want to produce sometimes, but I know that its simply how it is and I must learn to go with the flow.  The muse will return and finish the image for me.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Little things

Often the smallest things provide the most challenge and the most pleasure. I had been printing some capelin and used one to print onto some rough, hand made paper.  The image here of the print is the pertty much actual size.  Some people surprised to see that capelin are quite small, delicate looking fish, so my past painting at 12 x 36 was a stretch.

I was using some of the Caligo inks that I received today and both reviving some old lino cut plates as well as adding more printed leaves to my collection.  This is Indian paper and measures 3 x 4 inches.  I've been using it to print a little series of leaves from the garden, mostly herb, but some trees as well. 

Today it was marshmallow.  Yes, this is the original marshmallow, a far distant cousin from that sweet, white, spongy confection found in stores.  Marshmallow roots as well as leaves are used to sooth sore throats, as well being quite good for inflammation and used commonly in handmade skin care creams.  I love the leaves, not so much for their form, but texture.  They feel like velvet.  The little white flowers are fairly innocuous but the plant is a keeper in my garden.

These, or something similar, may well make their way into my Etsy store as affordable, original prints.