Kafka, Chapter 2 (‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.’ )

Kafka, Chapter 2 (‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.’ )

When I started the book, everything went smoothly and it seemed like it would be a straightforward project. The plan was to open the paper, stack it flat to relax, and cut it to size on a guillotine. Easy, right? I had cut Japanese paper this way, so it should work and I could get to printing. Then, out of the blue, Robbie Burns’ ‘Gang aft a-gley’ kicked in. Chinese paper is shipped ‘gently folded’ in packages of 50 sheets, rather than being rolled around a core. When the box arrived, I opened the packages and lay the paper out flat so it could relax before being cut to size. It didn’t relax. I waited. I tried putting weight on top. I rolled it up and let it sit over night. In the process of trying to flatten it, I realized that, because of its soft texture, it also wasn’t going to jog well enough to be cut on a guillotine. Time for plan B. Water. The 27″ x 54″ sheets were too big to dampen and stack, so I folded and knife-cut each sheet into eighths by hand. As I started folding it in half, I realized the paper wasn’t square. The concertina structure, with pages tipped back-to-back, requires that the pages be the same size and square. Time for plan C. Sigh. I would have to fold each sheet in half and trim it to square by hand before printing, then trim the head and tail of the book block after it was glued so they would all be the same size. The paper is Double Xuan, 2-ply paper we chose because it...
Artistic License

Artistic License

  This painting is finished. The photograph I used as reference had an iceberg in it, and when I started painting, I intended to include the iceberg, but move it forward in the composition. I was focussed on the iceberg, although it was only a small part of the image. Hmmm. My struggle is almost always to stick with my “Less is More” philosophy, to pay attention to the image as it gets its own voice, and be willing to let go of my original plan. To find the perfect balance between what I think I’m doing and what the painting becomes. This painting doesn’t need the iceberg. The omission can be called Artistic License, but  I don’t think it’s my decision. It’s looking at the painting and realizing it doesn’t need what I thought I wanted to include. I think the creative process flows like a river, and my job is to jump in and become part of the flow. Not to struggle to keep my head above water, but to submit to the current and be in the process, pay attention but be detached enough to hear when the painting says, “enough.” I think writers, musicians, golfers, chess players, salmon fishers, race car drivers and more find a similar groove when they do what they do well. Be attentive and adjust constantly but don’t grasp too tightly. Stay in the flow. Some days are better than others. There is always anxiety at the beginning, my brain telling me I don’t know what I’m doing,  I’m not working fast enough, not sticking with the plan, or I could totally screw up. Lose a day’s (or...
A New Painting in Progress

A New Painting in Progress

This is one of the new paintings I’m working on. I thought I would post some photos as it progresses. First, the basic underpainting to cover the canvas. Then adding colour and detail a bit at a time to build the image. I’m working on the rocks in the foreground and will have it nearly finished before I go back to complete the water and sky. I’ll add more photos as I go along. I am working on 6 paintings at the same time, and I rotate through them so they progress simultaneously. When the foreground is all in, this one will be on the wall for a few days to dry while I work on bringing the others to a similar...
Moving

Moving

Having spent much of the last month moving out of the space I had occupied since 1994, I am slowly organizing so the house doesn’t remain a holding area forever! With the help of a crane, a U-Haul truck, and two determined gentlemen, everything was moved. February is not the best time of year to be moving presses on salt-covered roads, but everything arrived in one piece. The last time the C&P was moved, we (meaning 2 friends and the 2 owners of the printshop who sold it- I watched and prayed) got it into and out of the truck from street level with a come along. I thought I would have heart failure watching that top-heavy thing sway as it was ratcheted up the ramp. The crane operator was fabulous, and the process of hooking up the presses and moving them was slow and graceful. Two flat files and the Kensol are in the living room, there are boxes everywhere, and I have about 4 square feet of wall space for painting, but I can reorganize a bit at a time. There is progress on the book front, but I will save that for another...

My method

As for my method… I work from photographs. I have tried keeping a sketchbook, doing working drawings and preliminary paintings on canvas, but those things don’t work for me. My field photos (taken with my trusty Nikon FM2) record what I found interesting and serve to jar my memory. I draw loosely, directly on the canvas, with thinned paint and a brush, and in the process of mixing and applying paint the paintings take on a life of their own. For this series, most of the iceberg photos are from my 20-year collection, mostly taken along the Avalon peninsula. The bird’s-eye-views come from the archives at Provincial Aerospace, the company that does observation for Environment Canada and the offshore oil rigs. Friends who have photos have generously offered them to me, and I’ve found a few on the internet. The photos get cropped, reversed, changed in scale or colour in the painting process; sometimes an iceberg is moved to a different coast or sent to sea to make the painting work. I love the bird’s-eye views. Early in my career, I did a series of still life drawings and paintings from objects (often fruit on a plate or in a bowl) which were placed on the floor by my feet because I didn’t have a table in my studio. Periodically I go back to that set-up. The slight feeling of vertigo, the out-of-kilter-ness of seeing something on the wall that should be down, is interesting to me. Off to walk the dogs and greet the...

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