It’s a beastly day here in Toronto–the whole weekend we’ve had freezing rain and ice pellets. Wind and rain are due tonight. To the rescue comes a little linocut I made in the ’80s or ’90s. I unearthed this forgotten piece just before working on the prints I’m going to enter into the miniature print show, BIMPE. It’s a simple little face that has a bit of a mysterious feel to me. I printed it on newsprint paper as a reminder of it. Here’s a detail of the repeated pattern I printed and the lino itself. I don’t recall if I ever printed the little face when I made it. If I did it would have been part of a larger design. I’m going to print a few impressions on good paper and give it the attention I think it’s due.
I’ve finally completed the block prints I’ll be sending to the miniature print show in Vancouver, Canada. Two of the three I showed in Proofs and the Past have either changed or been eliminated. The blue print called Dreamscape is the one that remains. Here it is printed on Japanese paper:
The print I thought of as a skull or mask changed when I experimented with repeating it and liked it better than the original. Here it is also on Japanese paper:
And I eliminated a tiny third one I had quite liked but felt it didn’t quite hold up. Instead, I carved a simple design in a lino substitute taken from a painting I did a couple of months ago. Just at the point where I had pushed the carving to where my back was starting to hurt, I stopped. The next day, though I had doubts about the outcome, I thought I might as well take a proof of the block. I liked the results. Here’s photos of the block in progress and the single print.
I continued experimenting and liked the effect of printing the block upside down on itself. This led me to try ten different versions. Here’s nine of them:
And here’s the tenth version that I’ve decided to send in. It’s printed red first with yellow on top, which I only thought to do after trying several the other way round with the light layer first. This was all a lot of work, but very intriguing in that sometimes I had no idea what the outcome might be. That’s where the fun comes in.
Some highlights from the past week:
First, The Proofs: I’ve continued working on rough proofs, trial block prints, that I’ll be submitting to BIMPE–Biennial International Miniature Print Exhibition. I’ve gotten them to the point where I’m ready to print them in their final form. Here’s the three of them. I think of the first as a dreamscape, the second as a view across fields and the third as a skull or a view behind a mask.
Second, The Past: While at Bathurst and Bloor Streets this past weekend, I took the following photographs. The southwest corner of this intersection in Toronto was known for decades as the home of a large discount store called Honest Ed’s. It had a famous sign that has been preserved, but the building has recently been demolished. Seeing an open space where it used to be was shocking enough. But, seeing the old advertising signs that had been hidden, that were painted on the adjacent wall was another surprise. And, before this wall of old ads and new graffiti is erased in the city’s high rise construction frenzy, I took some photos as a remembrance.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been making rough proofs–trial prints–of several linoleum and soft linoleum blocks to see which, if any, I will enter into an international miniature juried print exhibition. In these, I’m working on design elements mainly. I printed the blocks on newsprint paper, taped them to bookcases to view and tried various combinations of overprinting and colour. It was an enjoyable exercise. The ones in the photos are not the prints I’ll be entering, but were an important part of the process of choosing where to go next. I’ve picked three prints that I’ll now experiment printing with different colours and on different papers until I get the ones I’m happiest with. I’ll show you these later on.
I’m also about to launch into some further paintings on the chambers of the heart theme.
As I’m going through my old journals, I find forgotten elements–particularly the content of dreams. A few weeks ago, I came upon a curious and appealing dream fragment from June of 1993. At that time, I awoke with words telling me that centuries would pass before we discovered that the “L” in “Lion” was understood as its birdnote. I loved this strange sentence and decided to make a linocut from the words.
The lino that I’ve used is the same soft cut material that I used for the Sisters of Mercy print. It is very much easier to cut than the tough grey or brown burlap backed battleship linoleum that I used as a young woman. I’ve taken the first proof (rough copy) of the print and will work on it further. I plan on leaving the final print quite similar to this first proof–it just needs a bit of further carving and experimentation with the colours.
Here’s the inked green lino and the hand printed proof.
You can see more of my artwork in my etsy shop at artsofmay.etsy.com
I have finally returned to the block print inspired by Leonard Cohen’s Sisters of Mercy. Though at first glance this proof looks the same as the earlier one, I have added a few details to the mouths and hands that I felt were needed. And I’m happy with the results.
The ink I’ve been using on these rough copies is actually a deep violet though it looks nearly black. So my next step will be to pick up white ink and see if adding some will bring out the violet more. I’ll show you the results once I’ve done that.
After Leonard Cohen died, I remembered an interview I heard a few years ago with the Iranian Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari. He had been imprisoned in Iran and falsely accused of being a spy. He was subjected to torture and didn’t know if he would live or die. One night, he had a dream that brought to mind Leonard Cohen’s song, The Sisters of Mercy. Though he had never been a fan of Cohen’s music, he felt that song had a major role in saving his life. Through it, he found a place within himself that his captors and torturers could not destroy.
Part of that interview was replayed this fall after Leonard Cohen died. I had never been drawn to The Sisters of Mercy, but as I listened to the words this autumn, I knew they would help me deal with this time of darkness in the world. So, I’ve learned the words and have begun doing some artwork related to the song. After doing several sketches, I finally arrived at one that I wanted to use. As I looked at the sketch, I could see it as a linocut and I decided to return to linocutting to create the image. I gave up linocutting around 20 years ago, though it was my favourite medium, because of repetitive strain from carving over the years. Now I considered the roving pain I have as an elder. And I thought, I already have pain, so I’m not going to be afraid of it. I’m going to return to printmaking–something I love dearly. I have found a soft lino substitute that can still have crisp lines cut into it. I’m experimenting with that and with working for shorter periods of time at a stretch. So far, this is working.
Here’s 2 photos of the carving in progress. I’m using carving tools really made for children, but that work fine! I’ll show you the print once I finish it.
Good holidays to you.
Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone. They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on. And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song. Oh I hope you run into them, you who’ve been travelling so long.–Leonard Cohen