11 December 2017

Thoughts in the Dark

I used to hate this time of year and the unrelenting darkness. Get up and go to work in the dark, come home in the dark, all dark all the time. I do cherish my time with the constellations, looking up and finding the stars, tracing the formations, hoping for a glimpse of the Milky Way on a cloudless night. If only it wasn't so damn cold. Hard to appreciate Orion skulking on the horizon or the Little Dipper dumping stars on your head when your teeth are chattering. As much as I love Mars, I won't be up at 3:30 am to watch it rise.

I used to hold my breath until December 21st, hoping I could make it through the shortest day of the year. It doesn't seem so bad this year. With the constellations at night and the sunrise in the morning, everything is okay. I love seeing the first cracks of dawn push their way over the horizon.  Pinks and oranges and teals, with some racy purples mixed in. Then the orb rises and pushes the darkness away, painting the tops of tree with gold light. Who couldn't like that?

This time of year also brings Christmas lights. Sometime a extravagant excess of lights, but pretty lights all the same. The neighbors whose display could be seen from the ISS moved, so I don't have to put my lightblocking curtains up in the front window. Playing Christmas music along with the lights starting on Thanksgiving should be outlawed. Just saying. But other neighbors have some gorgeous displays. I love just blue lights on evergreens, and the icicle lights draped over gutters and around trees. Not so fond of the blow up cartoons and moving ornament spotlights.

The dark also alleviates the guilt over wanting to sit inside and knit or write or do artwork when my inner voice nags me to go outside and enjoy the day. Sometimes I listen to that inner voice, turn off the computer, head out to enjoy the little bits of sunshine and warm days we get this time of year. All too soon the sun sets, but I linger outside to watch Orion clamber over the horizon chasing Taurus, the Pleiades huddled together like we do when faced with darkness.

So how do you handle the long winter nights? The long dark? The long wait until spring?

26 November 2017

Anubis the Cat

A little retrospective of my cat Anubis, the cat who thought he was a dog. And helped raise the Corgis. Gone, but not forgotten. 

12 November 2017

One More Time Though the Grinder

Time to turn the writing up

So, I did something relatively stupid. I signed on to do NaNoWriMo again. But this time I signed on to do it my way. I need to edit and rewrite parts of my fantasy novel. I spent a year thinking of how to improve it, what has to happen to tie things together better, and how to punch up my heroine. So after all that time thinking, I still hadn't opened the file and dug into it. Was I afraid my new vision wasn't going to work? Or was it the thought of a 100,000 word novel after writing 40 line poems the past year the daunting thing? No guts, no glory, so I went forth. 

I'm working the novel in the confines of NaNoWriMo as a jump starter. I have a great deal of rewriting to do, and tightening up of chapters. So it's not exactly what NaNo is geared toward, but this is how I'm going to make it work for me. I have enough new novel ideas simmering in a folder. I need to finish this book the best I can before I start dabbling in other worlds. I made that mistake before, writing in two separate genres at the same time. I got one complete book and one hot mess out of it. And since fantasy won out, I guess I know where my heart is.

After a year of concentrating on poetry, I find myself better able to fine tune my sentences. Get rid of those pesky words that bear no freight. Think up metaphors and words that sound like they belong in my world. I don't regret my year or more away from the novel because I gained so much concentrating on poetry. Maybe I'll be able to tackle longer poems now, other than the 4 page tale that sprang full blown from my head one day—and promptly drained me of the ability to write another longer poem for a good while.

Even my art has benefited from this resurgence of interest in my fantasy novel. In imagining the world, I get images in my mind that would work great for printmaking or drawing. Which colors go with which kingdom? What kind of animals reside there? What does the landscape look like?

My favorite thing about writing is the never ending parade of ideas. It doesn't always have to be free verse poetry, or fiction. I can dabble in essays and non-fiction, form poems and haiku. I'm afraid my ideas outstrip my ability to process them. I always think I'll remember the lines that come to me in the night, or whisper in my ear on the drive to work. My recall isn't as perfect as I'd like to think. My new mantra – Write it down! Write everything down. No paper object is safe with pen in hand. Compress it all into that sonnet you've been trying to write. Or throw it up in the air, pluck the gems as they fall, and create the novel you always wanted. You have options. Run with them. 

Image: Pixabay

29 October 2017

All Boxed Up

Bear in a box.

There's something about boxes. Any small container, really. I remember asking my mother for the rectangular can the cocoa powder came in so I could wash it out and put my treasures inside. I was constantly rescuing shoe boxes for future dioramas and a long term home for pine cones. I spent weeks one winter playing in several large boxes with windows cut out, taped together to make a house, a town, a spaceship, an alternate reality.

I envied my mother's jewelry box, surely it was a magical thing. A safe place for the earrings and necklaces I didn't have yet. A keeper of diamond rings and gem-encrusted brooches. Tiny lapel pins from various companies. And, in the bottom, an array of strange coins from other countries.

I kept the tin the baking powder came in to horde my nickels for the candy store. A salvaged cardboard box slid under the bed could hold the aging stuffed animals of a girl not ready to let go. Christmas boxes with their shiny paper and fantastic bows hiding excitement within. Just the possibilities of an unopened box, any box, were enough to fire my imagination. Anything could be in there. Anything.

I still loathe to throw out containers and boxes to this day. Amazon makes it easier – I know there will be a steady supply of boxes coming my way. I baked a chocolate cake today, and finished off the cocoa powder. It was hard to let go. I nestled the container in the trash, careful to secure the plastic lid, so the cocoa box remained with its friend.  It's the least I could do, for something so innocuous, yet precious at the same time.

What about you? Any containers that make your life complete? Plastic storage tubs just aren't the same.  Any Amazon box hoarders out there? You know who you are. 

Image courtesy of Pixabay

15 October 2017

White Line Printmaking

Blue & Gold by Constance Brewer  7" x 7" White line print on Stonehenge paper. Daniel Smith watercolors.

Updates have been thin on the ground of late because I was pushing to get my latest print done. The Blue & Gold Macaw pictured above. It's a bit different from my usual relief printmaking in that it's a white line print. What is that, you ask? How is it different from the usual lino or wood cut block?

The following from Jeanne Norman Chase as written in 1999 on the Baren Forum.

"White-line woodblock printmaking began in 1915, the first woodblock printmaking unique to the United States. Western artists admired the Eastern traditional type of woodblock printing made by the Japanese artists. The Eastern art form required several blocks of wood to produce a finished print. The Western printmakers of 1915 created their own style of woodblock printing using only one block of wood.

The method started with a group of six artists in Provincetown, Massachusetts and this new form of woodblock printmaking became known as the Provincetown print, or white-line woodcut. Their work has been exhibited worldwide, and recently at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

The registration was uniquely different since only one print at a time would be printed. The side of the paper was tacked to the board and folded back, in the same way that a book would open. This would keep the registration lined up at all times and the print could be left while other prints were inked.

The paper is attached to the left edge of the block with thumbtacks, then gently folded back. This makes the register. The paper is repeatedly lifted and printed so this method keeps the paper in constant register.

The lines are cut into the block with a V-shaped cut of the knife. The lines remain white in the finished print, as only the raised areas which are left receive any color. It is a relief print in reverse.

To print a color, mix it alone on a palette. Apply the paint to the area (or areas) that you intend to print. Fold the paper down on top of the block and rub very gently over the inked area with the wooden spoon."

This method takes a while. I started working on the prints in August, figuring I would have plenty of time to do 20 prints before the Oct. 31 deadline. Here it is the 15th and I'm just getting done. I had to learn on the first few prints to put enough color on first time. My prints were coming out too light otherwise. I also found that I couldn't do more than two prints in a sitting, because the woodblock would retain the wetness and cause some areas to spread. I also decided next time I did this I would a) cut the lines deeper  b) use a bigger woodblock,  and c) only make 4 or 5 prints.

Since this was for a Baren Forum Exchange, I needed to make 20 prints to exchange with the other participants. I'm going to get 19 other white line prints in the exchange, how cool is that? The extra print goes to Pacific Northwest College of Arts (PNCA) in Portland, Oregon to be archived.

I love these print exchanges because I get so many prints from artists around the world. I study and learn from them. If you'd like to see some of the exchanges, go to the Baren Exchange Gallery and click on any of the active links. Some outstanding work there. Now, onwards to more prints, and some 'Underground' work for the Gyroscope Review cover. Art never rests.