Sunday, March 21, 2010

Block Printing

One of my favorite forms of printmaking is block printing.  I tend to refer to it as carving when talking about it.  I have carved many things over the years on both lino blocks and the soft rubber blocks.  I love the soft rubber blocks as they are much easier to carve than the lino blocks.  The down side to the soft rubber blocks is that they will deteriorate over time where lino blocks will last "forever".

When I first started carving, I would generally draw right on the block and then carve away the negative space (the area that I did not want to print).  This is very freeing actually and does not lend itself well to "self-criticism".  Many times you find the carved block when printed doesn't look 100% like the original drawing.  That, to me, is the beauty of it!

Being obsessed with vintage things and not be a photo-realist, my earlier carvings were whimsical household items such as percolators, dress forms, fruit bowls, wine bottles, cocktails glasses, lamps, flowers in vases, etc.  These are items that generally appear in my paintings.

Then I decided I wanted to carve landscape items and did some carvings of buildings, etc., and then found a love of carving portraits.  I started getting pictures of family members and carving these so that I wasn't in any violation of a copyright and found it quite addicting.  Some ultimately did not turn out as I had visualized, but others did.

Below are some portraits I carved next to pictures I used.

Here's a carving I did of my dad.  This picture and the one below of my mom were both altered in PhotoShop to get the high contrast look I was going after.

Here's a carving of Louie. I placed a piece of tracing paper on top of the photo and traced the positive space with a carbon pencil.  I then transferred that to the carving block.

Here's a carving of my mom.  I plan to re-do this one and give her eye more detail.

Song of the Week - 14

I don't have a lot to say about this week's song. This is more a small tribute to a musical great. A musician who hit the scene, amazed and brought happiness to people, then died - all by the age of 27.

Almost 40 years after his death, a new Jimi Hendrix release, Valley of Neptune, debuts at #4 on Billboard's Top 200! What a talent! This is a record.

Jimi Hendrix was one of those rare people that spent a limited amount of time on earth but made a huge contribution in that limited time. He had so many great songs, all songs that I love, but this is one of my favorites. Hey Joe. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bobby Shaftoe

I was out doing my regular errands a few days ago and noticed a woman wearing jeans was trying on shoes.  The shoes were pumps that were adorned with buckles.  Surely I'm not the only one that sees things and has "flashbacks".  This particular incident immediatley brought the nursery rythme, Bobby Shaftoe, to mind.

Growing up, my mom read to my little sis and I every night before bed.  She read us nursey rhythes, stories, something.  At some point she would read us Bobby Shaftoe.  I cannot find the book it was in but I do seem to remember it being in a book and not something she read to us from memory.  I recall the page with the picture of "pretty Bobby Shaftoe" who looked quite a bit like the Quaker Oats man.  Now as an adult, I find the use of "pretty" quite funny.  I was talking to my mom about this on Sunday and she found it funny too.

I can't remember if it was me or my sister that became obsessed with this nursery rythme, but we asked her to tell this one night after night.  She did and when I asked her on Sunday who would request this, she told me it was usually a request of my little sis who always had a bedtime story request.  As she read the line "He'll come back and marry me", we would then have our "no, marry me" debate.  My mom and two little girls arguing over the fictious Bobby Shaftoe and which one of us he'd marry.  We always won when we told my mom he couldn't marry her because she was already married.

Bobby Shaftoe’s gone to sea,
Silver buckles on his knees;
He’ll come back and marry me,
Pretty Bobby Shaftoe

Sketchbook - 2

Here's another sketchbook page.  Looks like I'm on a roll with plants and lamps.  I may just continue this theme and maybe turn them into a series of either lino carvings or (my new fun fav) digitally colored prints.

I left work today late.  Then I ran an errand to an office supply store in search of a particular item.  I couldn't find what I was looking for.  A young employee approached and asked if I need help.  I told him what I was looking for and he admitted he didn't know what that was and would ask an appropriate associate from that department to help me.  So, I waited and waited and waited.  I wandered up and down the aisles in search of what I was there for.  Nothing and no sales associate.  I kept looking at the time on my cell phone, watching the minutes pass and getting slightly annoyed at this "part of my life I'll never get back".

I finally found what I was looking for, but not as many as I wanted to get.  The young employee returned and asked if the appropriate associate had helped me.  I told him no but that I found what I was looking for and asked if someone could tell me if there was more in stock somewhere.  That began yet another long wait.  Moral of this story - I was in the store for 45 minutes and there was no additional inventory.  Ugh.  I felt like I was being "tested".  Needless to say, that put me home late after leaving work late and now I feel like my evening is shot.  I have two back-to-back webinars in the morning beginning at 8am and I am not proficient at being anywhere at 8am.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dino the rescue cat

I have rescued many cats and it has always been pretty smooth transitioning a new cat into the mix. I think that is because my previous rescues were either kittens or indoor cats. Dino was a stray cat that began hanging out on my patio Thanksgiving Day 2009. He pretty much showed up and didn't really leave. He would be on the patio in the morning and when I got home from work. He began to trust me and I was able to pet him when I'd take food out to him. Soon, he was expressing an interest in coming indoors. I was not sure about that as the cats of the house were usually hissing at him through the sliding glass door.

Knowing the weather was taking a turn and storms were on the way, I felt I needed to do something. I couldn't stand the thought of just leaving him out in the cold rain, looking in, meowing. I called the vet and scheduled an appointment. I wanted to determine if he had a chip since he did not have a collar or tag. He was a fully intact male and the house cats are all neutered males. The morning of the vet appointment arrived. I grabbed a pet taxi and headed out to the patio. He was there and I opened the carrier and picked him up, attempting, not so successfully, to get him in. He was not happy. He hissed and growled and fought with everything in him. He was so mad that I knew if I let him go, I'd be dead. I fought him and finally won. He was in the carrier, I had beads of sweat on my hairline and my heart pounded the entire commute to the vet's office.

No chip was detected, so I knew he pretty much was a wild stray. He may have lived with people at some point and that might explain why he was rather quick to accept human contact. So, I had him neutered, vaccinated, tested, etc. I picked him up at the end of the day and brought home. Silly me, I thought that just by neutering him, he'd immediately be less wild. I was wrong. He was trying to get to the other rooms with the house cats by jumping up on kitchen counters. Naturally, I was freaking out since he had just had a (surely) not so pleasant procedure. I kept him separated from the guys that night and the following day. Then, the next evening, I thought I'd try to let him out with the house cats.

That exercise didn't go so well. I now realize that getting the wild natural side subdued would take more than 24 hours. He spent who knows how long, depending on his wild instincts to for survival. When he came out from the back room, he approached Louie, and Louie didn't take to kindly to this. Louie is older now and not interested in any interaction with the cats. With all his "charm", Louie managed a massive hiss and growl and Dino retaliated and a minor cat fight was beginning. In an attempt to break this up, I stupidly picked Dino up. He was breathing heavy and very agitated. I tried to calm him as I carried him back to the room he had been kept in. He bit me more than once on the hand. The blood flowed and it began to hurt. The next day I was at the doctor's office getting a tetanus shot and a prescription for antibiotics. Ugh.

After this little incident, I contacted the local humane society and established contact with a pet behaviorist. She has been very helpful with this situation, giving me advice and guidance on the situation. Basically, I have kept Dino separated from the other guys and have swapped out their blankets so that they could get used to the scents. I also feed the house cats on the other side of the door of the room Dino is in (again, getting them used to scents). Dino and Monkey even play (and quite rough) through the space under the doors. I have used Rescue Remedy in their water (not consistently) and now Feliway in hopes of alleviating tension and in hopes of a calm and smooth transition. The pet behaviorist even paid a visit to the house to monitor the interaction. This came about because of my frustration when I attempted to feed them in the same room and the first night, Monkey attacked Dino followed by Dino attacking Petey the second night.

When she monitored the interaction between the guys, she pointed out normal traits of cats and all things considered, they were on their best behavior, if not totally comfortable. Petey was not happy with this contact whatsoever! So, she left and things seemed smooth. Later that night when we were all relaxing in the same room, Dino got crazy and snuck up on Monkey while he was sleeping and attacked. It suddenly seemed like all progress was gone, and I'm feeling like I'm back to square one. I am not sure if this will work. He was a wild stray cat and still has that tendency. I cannot continue to lock the house cats in rooms every day when they're used to having the run of the place. I also cannot keep Dino locked up in a room for his life. Will it get better or do I need to find him a home? Maybe (and I'm thinking it is a pretty good maybe) he needs to be the only cat in a house.

Dino really is an adorable cat. He is very social and loves attention. He purrs, rubs against your legs, sits on your lap, lays on you and is like a mink stole, jumping on your shoulder and wrapping himself around your neck. I want him to have every chance at a happy life and feel that maybe my time with him has been to “foster” him and prepare him for a life safe from the streets in a loving home where he can be the star cat.  Naturally, this breaks my heart as he is so sweet and I am growing attached.  Maybe it can work out here, but either it isn't, or I'm not giving it enough opportunity to work.  Surely, this saga will be continued at a later date.  This story will require updates.

Song of the Week - 13

It is that time of the year here in California - daylight saving time. I am one of those people that does not like to lose an hour. It always seems like mandatory and enforced jetlag. I am still baffled as to why we continue with this practice and may at some time really study the pros and cons.

I've heard that DST is great for sporting events, retail and anything relying on afternoon sunlight. Hmm, more daylight for shopping just might require more frequent stops at the gas station. Well, maybe then the oil companies are reaping great rewards.

On the other hand, concerts under the stars, holiday firework displays and the like must begin later when the sun finally goes down. Most people I know love the extra daylight citing driving home from work with the sun has a positive psychological effect. I'm sure there are many good arguments but I really just want that hour back!

This morning I got up and it was an hour later than it should have been. I sat down with a cup of coffee, thinking about how hard it will be to get up for work tomorrow and this week's song jumped into my head. So, in "honor" of the loss of an hour, this week's song is about time, a word with with so many meanings.  This song is not about daylight saving, but it is about time.  Time is something we all have and may or may not make the best  use of and time is short, especially as you get older.  Hopefully, I can make the most of this day, less one hour.

The Chambers Brothers, The Time Has Come Today.  Enjoy.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sketchbook - 1

I have tons of sketchbooks and journals. Each book has sketches, doodles, thoughts written down. I think I will begin to share some of these pages here.

I finally posted again yesterday after almost three weeks. So my 2010 goal to post two to three times a week did not hold up in February. The reason for my absence is I did something stupid and hurt myself. I was taking out the trash one evening a little over three weeks ago. I usually empty the litter boxes into separate plastic shopping bags, but this one time, I had this insane idea to save the bags and to dump the litter boxes into the big Hefty bag with the kitchen trash. Well, it was heavy and I couldn't lift it. I tried to "hoist" the bag, using all my strength and that seemed to work. The bag went flying and so did I. Fell right into the cat tree (ouch) and did some damage to the rib(s).

The nurse checked and where there was a little bit of swelling, there was no bruising. I opted to not get an x-ray. Anyway, I have been dealing with the now lessening pain and was not so focused on creative endeavors such as drawing, painting, printmaking or writing. I just sat around annoyed at myself for not doing anything creative.

So over the weekend I pulled out one of the sketchbooks, a marker and my Prismacolor pencils and started to draw pictures with the marker and then color them with the pencils. It was fun to do something creative again.

And speaking of doing creative things, I have an order for bracelets that I am terribly late on delivering. I have only made four of the eight requested. I'd say it's beyond time to get busy.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Song of the Week - 12

Well, I've been away for few weeks and I'll address that in a different post.

The Academy Awards was on tonight. I was really happy that the Hurt Locker won. I had every intention of watching it before the show, but just didn't get around to it.

I spent three years sending people to Iraq to rebuild a country that was destroyed by a war I did not agree with. The men and women of the armed forces were there, doing their jobs. I sent people (Government Contractors) there that were making a hell of a lot more money than the men and women in uniform, just doing their jobs. I won’t spend any time on this topic except to say that Iraq was not a real war (whatever that really might be) and should not have happened, in my opinion.

I can’t think of too many people that have not had someone in their life in uniform. Both my dad and my mom served their countries (my dad the US and my mom Canada) during WWII. I know young people now currently serving and I want to salute all of them. This includes those that went to Viet Nam, be it on their own or by the draft. The men and women that came home to ridicule and not fanfare or parades. The service people that were prisoners of war or missing in action. The people whose names were on the metal bracelets we bought as kids in the 60s and faithfully wore, hoping to learn someday that they would come home safe.

I have read and heard that this week’s song was written by Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. Apparently the song was about a soldier/sailor on his last day with his girlfriend before shipping off to war. How very cool and what a great song. Enjoy. The Doors, Love Me Two Times.