Here’s what I’m working on now–a variation of the piece I showed in Learning. This time, I’ve used only the watercolour crayons, both wet and dry. I’m slowly building up colour and texture and paying attention to shapes. I believe the piece is a work in progress–the more I contemplate it, the more aspects I see to work on.
This week, I happily received the copy of Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ book, Hansel and Gretel. In it, he has brilliantly reimagined the fairy tale. I ordered it last week from the U.K. and it arrived faster than some packages from other parts of Canada!
Clive Hicks-Jenkins is one of my favourite artists. He shows a wide array of his artwork on his blog and talks about the process that went into making the pieces. His artwork in this book is tremendously engaging with both terrifying and beautiful renditions of the characters and the settings. I’ve been pouring over the book and love the layers of paint, drawing and collage.
On the artist’s blog are many posts about the complex process he went through in making the book. The link above is to just one of those posts and also talks about the Hansel and Gretel toy theatre kit he designed. Below are the front and back covers of the book.
Last week, while I was home with a cold, I began experimenting with an old water soluble crayon set I have. I find painting/drawing on an easel a lot easier physically than printmaking with the pain of repetitive strain I’ve acquired from lino and woodcutting. So, I’ll return to the latest print after a break.
For the drawing below, all I started with was a desire to draw a human profile. The rest developed from there. I mostly used the crayons dry and combined some pigment markers with them. The drawing has a controlled feeling to me because of the outlines throughout. I was interested in experimenting with layers of colour and texture. At times when I was unhappy with the results and redid them, I managed not to destroy the image in an attack of self-criticism. I find making artwork is a dance between creation and destruction. There’s a line between honestly facing mistakes and shredding myself for making them. Now that the piece is finished, I think I’ll try making further works using this drawing as a starting point. I want to practice a looser look, perhaps bringing out the watercolour properties of the crayons. As for the content, for me it reflects some of the different voices or faces within a person, coupled with strange sci-fi or unconscious looking elements.
The next experiment I did pretty quickly, as a reaction to the first one. I cut up part of an earlier crayon watercolour and adhered it to a sheet that I loosely marked in black. I like the feel of this one. There’s the contrast between black, white and colour. And there’s the contrast of the controlled edges of the cut outs with the loose scribbles of both the black crayon and the colours within the shapes themselves. Perhaps this collage technique is one I can develop. It could stand alone or be part of larger works.
You can also see my work at artsofmay.etsy.com
In honour of summer and the Pride Parades here in Toronto and around the world, here’s a hot pink and rainbow coloured gouache painting I made several years ago. It’s called The Swimmer.
I have kept journals–diaries–on and off for the past 40 or more years. In the 1990s and early 00s, I hand wrote a huge amount in dozens and dozens of lined notebooks–mostly recording my dreams and feelings but also world events and my activities. I’ve been working on a big project, going through my journals from those years and massively editing them. By that I mean, I’ve been tearing out and shredding large portions of them while noting what I was going through at the time. Now, this may seem ghastly to some people, but it is extremely liberating to me. I am creating more room for myself at my current age, while remembering, but not holding onto, what my younger self experienced.
In the course of editing a journal this week, I saw an entry I wanted to record here. I wrote it in April of 1991 after attending an excellent painting workshop with the artist and teacher Sam Feinstein. I have always remembered the powerful nature of that workshop, but had forgotten his teachings about the nature of making art. This was my understanding of what he told us, as I wrote it in 1991:
About art making–you needn’t even believe in your creativity–do it as a way of expressing the life form that is particular to you, that is of nature and larger than you, that goes through you. As a way of being authentic. Dreams and art are of the unconscious life force, bigger than us. Dreams are fleeting, art remains. Once a piece of art work is done, it is its own thing. It never was yours anyway. As its own thing, it is judged on its merits, apart from you.
Art is the spirit made visible through human beings reaching out from themselves, beyond themselves. Art is beyond our own feelings as we create.
Words to make art by!
The gouache painting above is one I made in the 1990s. I did it like a form of free association, attempting to allow whatever came to consciousness to find its way onto the page without censoring it.
Here’s 2 photos I took today at the Art Gallery of Ontario of David Milne’s Black Waterfall. This is the painting I love that I wrote about in 2014 and included in my last post, A Poem for an Old Woodcut. David Milne lived from 1882 to 1953 and as far as I can tell it appears that 50 years after an artist’s death, his or her work goes into the public domain. Hopefully this is so.
The first is the whole painting and the second is a detail showing him blending into the scene.
As I continue turning some of my early prints into booklets, I’m playing around with words I might include with the prints. This last print I’ve been working with (the one that’s also in my previous post) has a lot of black ink in it. And that got me thinking about some writing I did a few years ago. In 2014 I took a poetry writing workshop at the Art Gallery of Ontario. After our meetings, I’d often wander around the Gallery, looking at various art works. This prose and poem came out of one of those meanderings. I’m contemplating the design of the booklet and will show it to you when I’ve completed it.
Here’s another photo of the woodcut I plan to use that I’ve cut down the middle.
And here’s the prose and poem:
On a day when the tomb-like qualities of the gallery seep into me too much, I enter the rooms of David Milne’s paintings looking for peace. I find some here, away from the more flashy works of Lauren Harris and Frank Carmichael. Milne’s are quieter, less assuming, but they give back to me, emitting life.
I stand looking at one that I like. It’s called Black Waterfall, a scene in the woods by a small falls. The water is, indeed, black, the colours subdued. After many minutes, I am surprised to see what I hadn’t noticed: Milne, himself, at his easel in the upper left of the painting. He’s the same colours as the trees, rocks and earth. He has disappeared into the scene or become one with it. I like the humility, the humour and the wisdom of his image, considering where the alienation from nature has taken humanity.
This is a painting I can carry with me, softening the dense traffic of the city, helping me inhale forested air where rivers flow, while the ghost of the artist amidst the trees silently witnesses my passing presence.
By the black waterfall
the painter has disappeared
into the trees, rocks and soil
where, being invisible,
he can more closely observe passersby
and the woods and water he’s depicting
camouflaged at his easel like a deer
but not bolting
steady of hand and sight
neither a conqueror
nor a slave
embodying a gentle way
to save a life.
©Lily S. May–May 2014