Happy Easter! (or day after)
The days really meld together, don't they. I've been able to stay pretty productive in light of our circumstances. With the new makeshift studio space in the basement I've been able to dabble in both print and wax-sculpting/casting.
The little octopus core I showed you last time has since been rubber-casted so the mould is complete. It does face a complication where, because of the way it's oriented, a cavity of air will always form where the eyes are, but I've found some solutions for it. Meanwhile, I still have some skulls to finalize. Once I finish those and make rubber moulds out of them, I'll make them even more complicated with flowers and moss and all that lovely stuff!
I printed the backup Lonely Hydra plate up to the second layer but it ended up cracking as well. This time, there was a piece of tape on the bed underneath, but I'm just starting to think that it was just a cursed image to begin with. It could be as technically as the image itself providing too many stress points, but it could just very well have been a project that took far longer than it should have. It was an easy project, but the lack of resources and timing kinda botched it from the get-go. All good and well, I then purposely cracked it even more and plan to get some last prints off of it, count my losses. Luckily I bought a whole stack of papers in February before the stores shut their doors. I'll post pictures of those prints when I get to them.
I'd say the most exciting thing I've been up to is my return to digital art. My online shops and activity were neglected when I was working in the basement. My wrist was acting up again after some printing (probably onset carpal tunnel) so I decided to do some work at the computer. It's odd, because typically drawing on the computer can also mess up your wrist badly, but I took it easy at first, and my wrist was bound in a hot-cool compress. Since then it's been much better, and I've been having a lot of fun.
My next design is digitizing the back of my ukulele, which is a fresco-like mural of a few of my favourite things. I've posted pictures before, but I'm really pleased with how the remaster is going. It's a bigger canvas and less messy; more of my details are retained and refined. So far I've gotten, maybe, a third of the way down? I've also added the Termina Moon from Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, and I'm sorta sorry I didn't have the mind to add it on the uke. That game has always made me tremor with fear and awe.
I've reached the same dilemma with it as I did with the uke, however. As cool as King Ghidorah is, the fact he has three heads makes his design tiresome to render. After I finished one head I decided to finish a very quick design to liven up my shop. It ended up being the biggest file I've ever made, but I'm very pleased with it!!
I mentioned before how I was really interested and inspired by Alphonse Mucha's work, or La Style Mucha, and I wanted to employ some of the qualities to my online work. Although still a little messy, I think this is the type of illustration I'd love to move forward with. Digital paintings like the Uke Fresco or my Gaffer Gods will still be approached as digital paintings, but I really like how Plague Gaffer came out, and I want to approach other motifs in this way.
Plague Gaffer's based on a photo of glass artist Alexander Rosenberg, who starred in the first season of Blown Away on Netflix. I haven't had a chance to meet him personally, but I've heard him speak and seen him from afar, he's a really cool guy. I found an image of him working taken by photographer David Leyes on the set of Blown Away and based my drawing off of it. The background is based on an old Art Nouveau tapestry, and the textures from a watercolour image package I downloaded. All and all, a good collection of new techniques for me to employ for future designs.
Right now I'm uploading Plague Gaffer to my shop, which is a long process due to terrible internet connections, but I'll post an announcement on my social medias when all of it is live. After that I'll go back to working on the Uke Fresco.
Stay tuned, and take care!
I'm happy to say that I've finally found structure to my days in quarantine, after last week expressing my lack of motivation. I wake up, have coffee, and walk Lusia before I go to work on studio projects. Because of the nice weather we decided to carry up stuff from the basement to the outdoors, which opens up a more comfortable place for me to work. Most of the floor is dedicated to printing, but I'm very happy that I finally have a spot to warm my wax for mold pours. I print for most of the afternoon, and then I work with waxes in the evening while watching something. I made a little octopus while watching The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance for the 6th time now. I also finally finished the last component of the claw ring, so the preparation of that part of the project is complete. Yesterday and this morning I rubber casted it along with the octopus, so I'll be able to test them out later today. In the meantime, once I upload this post, I'll go print the second layer of the Lonely Hydra. The first layer was just a blank plate, to set up for the etched image. Wish me luck!
So this time I'll be rambling about glass painting.
You can paint on glass with whatever you want, but if you want it to last forever on it (no flaking or discolouration), you use enamels. Enamels are finely-crushed glass powders of various colours, and you can get it in powder form to mix into a paint yourself or get it pre-mixed. Most people are acquainted with enamel on lapel pins and the like, it's a similar thing. There are transparent and opaque palettes depending on what type of glass and function you want, and you can either paint or screenprint depending on the viscosity of your paint. I personally like painting more than screenprinting, despite being a printmaker... mostly because, for me, it takes up a great amount of room. I would have to have a room specifically dedicated to it so that no contaminants or cluttering could interfere. There's an amazing enamel artist who actually ran a workshop in my 1st year, Joseph Cavalieri, and he sparked my intrigue in painting with glass.
However, my first serious exploration with glass enamels was frustrating. We had an experimental class in 3rd year where we picked up a technique we didn't know and worked through tests throughout a term. I did not use the enamels Cavalieri used but high-fire Reusche paint, which came in powders. Enamel painting wasn't taught at Sheridan; instructors had a gist of how to mix, apply, and fire, but it was mostly self-taught, hit-or-miss. My tests were more or less a successful endeavour, and by that I mean I gained a greater understanding of firings, but the results were still not what I was looking for. There was not really any point of choosing high-fire enamels when low-fire enamels can do a similar, if not better, trick.
When I worked for Cheryl at Rubyeyes Kraftwerks, she showed me low-fire Reusche, and it was a lot more conclusive. She showed me step by step, gave me one of her designs to try painting and get used to the application, and allowed me to make my own enameled piece. I didn't have to spend so much time on testing, which was nice for a change.
She also introduced me to silver-stain, which I immediately fell in love with. Enamel painting is technically a fusing, whereas silver-staining is a chemical reaction with the glass. The silver-stain is actually invisible; the reddish hues of the pigments are merely terracotta dust to help visually for where you want to apply it. I love the golden warmth that a window with silver stain brings in natural sunlight, even on rainy days. My time with Cheryl motivated me to have one of my thesis projects to be done using enamel and silver-stain together.
During my final year of Sheridan, anyone who needed my help knew where I'd most likely be, and that would be in this tiny room with a sandblaster and an even tinier fume hood. I hogged up that fume hood all the time, which I feel bad about since enamel painting doesn't give off fumes. The ventilation was great for sucking up any particulates, but I mostly worked there for the privacy. No one seemed to mind though, and I was always willing to move if someone needed it for spray painting and such. People joked that it was my office, and that it still is even after graduating, which I find endearing. The space was just big enough for me to work on Self-Vanitas, one sheet of glass at a time. The final ones, which were exhibited at the Sandra Ainsley Glass Gallery in Toronto, each had three sheets of glass, the image divided into fore-, middle-, and backgrounds. I also have iterations where the whole image is on one sheet, but they're not mounted yet.
Stained glass is something I truly wish to pursue, but it's the least accessible for me right now, especially during quarantine. The most I can do is prepare illustrations for when the time comes, in the same way I make rubber molds for the time I have a fully-functioning kiln. If I were to exhibit at places like Toronto Outdoor, One of a Kind, or The Artist Project, it would be with glass objects. Silver-stain windows, glass-casted sculptures and vessels, and integrated glass prints.
Man, I really hope I get there.
In the meantime I will just keep developing my skills. Right now I've been really studying Alphonse Mucha and his style, because that's the direction I want my illustration work to take. Between studio work and reading, quarantine isn't gonna hold me down.
And that concludes the last of my mediums!! I have no clue what the next blogpost will be, but we'll see when the day comes.
Step out for a little sunshine!!
I won't pretend and say quarantine life is easy. I'm not sure where other artists find the motivation to continue updating their art but I find it a bit difficult to do so stuck up in one place. I've been much more inclined to catch up on things that I neglected in homely life, now that I'm here long enough to notice. Chores and housecleaning have taken most of my attention. I figure that it's not something to be sorry for, though, because I'm still staying productive and exercising creative thinking. Even so, it can be real boring in a box.
That being said, I'm not staying quiet on social media simply because I'm unmotivated to create. I'm all for staying informed, however it's a bit overwhelming to be bombarded with the news, misinformation and opinions of other people. It's discouraging to see people acting rebellious, self-righteous or lacking compassion.
I know in my heart that I should still focus on my work, because it's my intention to show people that good things still prevail in bad times. I get that some people don't/are unable to understand but it's my purpose to reflect on it. I can't directly help with the efforts against the sickness, but an instructor of mine once told me that art isn't functionless if it can't be used. It can always have a function to inspire.
I should still try and show you what I'm working on, even if you may not happen to see it in the saturated feed, because in the chance that you do, it might comfort you in some way.
...that was a bit hard to articulate, but here's hoping I didn't sound completely sloppy. Now we're gonna about integrated glass printing.
Okay! During my studies at Sheridan, one of my instructors lent me a book because he learned about my interest in print. In the contemporary art world, interdisciplinary methods are continuously evolving and it's very worth the time to read up anything relating to your intention, aesthetic, etc, in case you stumble upon a medium you particularly like. This book is Glass & Print by Kevin Petrie, and I liked it so much that I gained my own copy. It listed and explained a few of the many ways both glass and print can lend their best qualities to one another. There was a short chapter of vitreography, which helped my understanding with using glass as a matrix.
Another method, which I found very interesting, was integrated glass printing. This method was essentially a way to make multiples of three-dimensional pieces that functioned as “glass editions”. The process involves making a rubber casting of an etched plate, with which you can easily make plaster molds of. The linework of the plate would thus be replicated in the plaster, and you would fill these in with coloured glass powder, almost as you would ink a plate. Then you pack it up with more glass, enough to allow the linework to have a body to integrate with. It's brought up to fusing or casting temperature, and when it comes down again, you pop it out. If the mold is still in good shape, you can cast again for a “ghost casting” the same way you could monotype a “ghost print”. The mold may split in another firing, but with so little glass you aren't at risk of a spillage in the kiln. The piece itself will remember these scars, which I personally find very cool.
I have yet to replicate exactly how Petrie does it; his work seem to have a transparency and vividness to them that leads me to believe he has the resources to have very clean glass or powders. Each particulate of glass you mill yourself is covered with glass dust, so it exhibits a milky translucency when fused or casted. Almost all of the works I've made have been opaque, unless I specifically use clear sheetglass as the body. That could very well be how Petrie does it but it's not mentioned in the book and I haven't contacted the man myself, nor have I actually seen his work in person. It has been a very interesting journey, however, working through this process on my own.
Instead of etched printing plates, I use glass that have been deeply engraved through sandblasting and dremelling. Thus, my integrated glass prints have a lot more depths and levels to them, acting as reliefs. I'm interested in using the engraved pieces as vitreographs, but they're much bigger than what the baby press can handle. With having different cavities to work with, I can work with a variety of colours without having to worry about them mixing and muddling together. The first half of this process is very straightforward. The casting bit, however, was when things got real complicated.
Many glass colours are reductive in nature. They strike into a different colour when another variable is present, like duration at a particular temperature or a chemical reaction to something in the kiln. Many of the first castings I did burnt out to dark, ugly things. It was apparent to me that this process required many, many, many tests.
But the nice thing about that is I'm very stubborn and methodical, so it wasn't a big deal.
Through these tests I managed to develop a deep understanding of what happens to glass in the kiln. Lost-wax casting is a lot more apparent because the glass is more active, but when you make integrated glass prints, you learn how to distinguish subtle details. How deeply packed your glass was, what shade of colour ended up exactly how you wanted, how clean the glass was to begin with, whether there was any moisture left over in the mold before you started working... so many variables had their part to play.
I had a very good sense of how the kilns functioned at school. People requested my help beyond technologist hours so that made me feel pretty cool. Yet, when it comes to a kiln of my own, my research will have to backtrack, maybe even start in the dark. Every kiln behaves differently, so at any time, the knowledge I've developed won't always be automatically correct. I am really excited for the moment I finally fire my own kiln!!
I think I'll end it here. The last thing I wanna talk about in medium is glass painting, so look forward to that for next time!
So yeah, things don't look that great but keep your chin up. Some of our parents and grandparents have withstood worse things than COVID-19, and we just gotta persevere. We're in a different age where we can access global information insanely quickly, but the amount of information we're exposed to can overwhelm us with the wrong information, often filled with semantics, politics and problematic opinions. Stay informed, double-check everything, and keep a positive mindset.
During this time my wrist has been killing me more than usual, which is terrible timing. I had intended to print every other day or so and generate a good stock of prints but it doesn't look like it's gonna happen quickly. It would be ideal to go to a physiotherapist but with how things are I am hesitant to do so... not in fear of getting infected, mind, but it does take a long time to get in touch with someone even outside of a pandemic. I'll try mending it with what I have here and just take it easy. It'll be a good opportunity to work on other less strenuous things, but I am still remorseful.
Gonna snap out of that by diving right into what I promised last week; glass casting.
So! I was first introduced to the process at Sheridan, obviously. Hot casting was the initial icebreaker; pouring a ladle-full of molten glass into a mold in a sandbed. This process is very hands-on and almost industrial in the sense that you can get multiples if you work efficiently. It requires a lot of preparation, and the more time you spend in the mold stage, the cleaner the casting is. The act of casting also requires a bit of skill; clean gathers and pours, perfect amounts of glass for the mold, control, ability to quickly recover and fix mistakes. I liked it, but I deviated to kiln casting in my later years since it was something I could take my time with and work independently. Sandcasting is a team effort. Since it was still within my major, I did offer to help my classmates with their pours and projects. I am still affectionately referred to as “Ninja Snips”.
As I mentioned, kiln casting was where I found my niche. I started sculpting with clay, but found that my preferred medium very quickly was microcrystalline wax. It's also very hands-on, but not fast-paced. I had complete control on how long I can spend my time with each piece. When I attended Western I was noted to have poor sculpting skills but I realize that my materials were just lacking. The closest I'd say I got to the sculpting I excelled at was making a concrete gnome. Could have been a good indicator of the process I would end up pursuing, even if it's applied differently.
It gets extremely technical in a kiln room. You've got pounds of wax to melt and maintain in a way it doesn't suffer from dirt or water contamination. You gotta make sure you don't get wax on every surface while you work, so containing it in a space is mandatory. Making a mold properly ensures it can survive glass-melting temperatures, but even a good mixture can't save a poorly-plotted orientation of a piece. Steam-out of the wax is messy business and can also compromise the integrity of the mold. Placement of your mold in a kiln is important with air circulation and heat distribution in mind. Understanding what's happening inside the kiln both theoretically and practically is something you gain from experience. Demolding has to have good timing and etiquette. The difficulty of coldworking the piece depends on what you planned ahead with sculpting in the first place... your sanity depends on where you ended up placing that reservoir.
Man, all that vague jargon! In order to explain everything more thoroughly I'd have to dedicate posts to each step in the process. You can always comment or contact me if there's anything in particular that you're interested in.
I became particularly enamoured with making casted vessels... drinking horns in particular. Drinking horns started as a thing for me in Glassblowing, since its very simple shape made a great basis for more ornamental, story-telling elements. Since blowing wasn't my schtick, I carried it over to kilncasting. The trouble, of course, is that it's a hollow object; most castings are solid. So, hollow-core casting was something I studied, making multiple prototypes and figuring out exactly how I can effectively cast this shape. Since it initially has no point where it can sit stable, I have to make bases for them, but I always find that they detracted from the look. So I started giving them feet. It's still something I want to do when I start working with a kiln again.
It's been nearly a year since I graduated and I'm perpetually in the wax-sculpting stages. I'm partly glad I am because I'm not losing touch with the medium. I've also done dozens and dozens of rubber casts of them, so when it comes to it I'll be prepared for a production scenario. Now, with the COVID-19 outbreak, I have a lot to work with indoors. I have a few drinking horn and shot horn prototypes to finalize, as well as a lot of bottles to play around with. For the time being I'm brainstorming interesting and symbolic cores for them, so obviously I've made small human skulls to start me off. Even if I get to the point of making their molds, I won't be able to fire them any time soon in quarantine.
So I'll just keep waxin' away!
How do printmaking and glass casting intertwine? Find out next week when I talk about integrated glass printing.
Well uh... I will date this moment and say that I'm writing Wednesday night, right after an unfortunate occurrence took place.
The Lonely Hydra plate shattered on the second run.
And yeah, glass breaks, it's a thing! It's the risk you take when you use it as a matrix. Up until this point I had been very careful with the pressure of the press and adjusting every few prints. Sometimes the pressure seems extremely dangerous but when the plate is on the bed with nothing underneath, it can withstand it.
It could have either been two things: the pressure-adjusting cranks shifted, as any little nudge can do so easily without me knowing; or I was truly careless when I decided to put the glass facedown on the paper, rather than traditionally faceup. It could be both, but I'm leaning to the latter. I was just so excited about using alcohol inks as a middle layer, and amidst the excitement I thought to myself, “wHy, It'S gLaSs, I cAn SeE tHrOuGh It To ReGiStEr!” and the logic centre in my brain didn't light up. Doing it this way introduces the gaps of the matrix (the blasted image) as pressure points. When you cut glass to pieces, you snap it in the opposite direction of the scored surface, so it only makes sense. I had a separate plate that I was experimenting with... if I had thought to use that for this experiment I may have spared the Hydra.
But it can't be helped. I had initially thought to play off the cracks (a slight impression transfers to the paper) but it's more hassle than it's worth. It takes maybe twice as long to ink because you're careful not to cut yourself or damage any of your applicators. Don't even get me started on the slivers and crunching. I can see it being done with the glass fastened on a stiff backing, but it would have to be water/oil resistant and thin enough to accommodate the height this press already lacks. It's overall messy and cumbersome.
My plans for the print have been scrapped, obviously, because registration is very particular. Making a new plate would require an identical piece of glass and an impeccable eye to place the design exactly in the same spot and orientation. I would be better off starting from scratch, reprinting the first layer all over again, but no! I will not.
Glass is versatile, and I should be, too. I'll take this blunder as a reminder that approaching it like a traditional printing method squanders its potential. Its quality really allows it some flexibilty, which is hard to believe considering what happened but I mean it. So I'll get some similarly-sized pieces of glass and brainstorm with it.
I had originally decided to move on to glass casting in this post but when interesting things happen in real time they should be covered first! My only regret is that I didn't make a rubber casting of this plate before it went, which would have allowed me to make integrated glass prints of it down the line. While I'm working on my next print I can cut another vinyl of it.
In other news, I've been keeping busy at the studio in Aylmer, making many rubber casts of bottles! So far I'm up two six completed, with some simple yet interesting shapes. Cheryl noticed my current project and gave me some more from her collection to make some more.
I just realized that I never really explained how I got access to a studio space, so let's dial back for a second. The third year of my program at Sheridan required me to find an establishment to fulfill my Co-Op term. Glass-related places offering a paid position are next to nothing, especially London since I wanted to be closer to home. Galleries seemed like my only hope but they all fell through as well. I guess in desperation I started contacting art guilds to help me connect with any glass artists they knew. The Association of Port Stanley Artists was the only one that replied back and connected me with Cheryl Garrett-Jenkins, artist and owner of Rubyeyes Kraftwerks.
I met up with her in Port Stanley at her brick-n-mortar location at the time, a very cozy shop close to the beach, with a studio in its garage. It was a very pleasant meeting and she agreed to take me on because no one else would. She paid me bi-weekly for gas in exchange for my hours helping her around the place. I'd step in at the register when she was working in the back, open and close the shop, and basically any grunt work she needed. Luckily enough she was clearing out some unused/scrap glass at the time. It was a wonderful summer, and I gained an invaluable friend too; it never really felt like she was my boss, and in fact it kinda feels like I got a really cool aunt and uncle (her husband is really sweet). It was at this time that I learned how to properly fire enamels, solder, came, and cut glass, and it was the first time I was acquainted to silver stain.
I returned to school but made sure to come visit Rubyeyes whenever I came home for the weekend. Then, after graduating, I still remained open to work with Cheryl. However, at that time she had decided to close down the store front of business and merely keep working from her garage. I helped them move her studio to Aylmer and things look really good. I don't technically work for her, but she's graciously provided me space in her studio to continue my practice. We hope to make a collaboration piece very soon! It just takes a while with all of our personal projects taking precedent. I visit her studio twice a week so that I don't lose grasp on the medium, now that I don't have the school facilities or assignments to keep me in check. Since going there, I have developed an extensive mold library that keeps on growing. Now I only wish I can finally fire these objects in glass sooner!
And perhaps I will.
Glass casting is next week's topic, I promise.
P.S. In light of recent news, don't panic, and stay away from fear mongering social media outlets. Be sure to continue supporting local artists and businesses because they rely on you.
This has been a fairly good week. In order to make up for Saturday's snowday I got to go to the studio on Monday, which entailed a lot of mouldmaking. I made rubber casts of three bottle-like items, which I'm very excited to play around with today when I see them set and cured. On Tuesday I tided (or rather set up and organized) an area for myself to carry out my printing projects.
Wednesday I travelled up to Georgetown with my friend so that she could make works for sandblasting. Allow me to explain a little bit; my friend, Hannan Fayad, is a glass artist who graduated from my program while it was a diploma and continues her work in London. Since my graduating and returning home, we've connected and have gotten very close. She doesn't have a glassblowing studio so she rents time or 'slots' at a studio in Georgetown to make her stock. Since I also want to stay connected to the glass art scene, I offer to be her uber. At some point I want to use the facilities myself, but for the time being I come up to see old faces and secure some quiet time to think creatively. I sketched a lot this time around, brainstorming about the bottles, the claw ring, and the Lonely Hydra print (which I'll get to in later paragraphs). I took lots of pictures of her working so that's always fun!
I was a bit drained on Thursday but I took care of some errands. Yesterday was a bit more productive since I got some proofs done of the glass plates I showed last week. The laser-engraved plate proved too shallow, and no amount of underwiping is worth the time, but the linework has a very good read. For the next design, I'll ask to see if it can be engraved multiple times in place... it might just do the trick. I will however go back into it with a dremel because I feel there can be some really good values to be unearthed from it. The vinyl-blasted plates were great, the depth just right, but I preferred the bigger between them. The teeth weren't compromised as much. This print was originally as small as it was so it could be submitted to some mini-print exhibitions but it clearly doesn't want to be small.
Before I go into too much detail about the Hydra, I'll delve into today's topic. Between the two traditional mediums, people voted for Printmaking, and I will go into what that means in my practice.
A few blogposts ago I explained that I was first introduced to printmaking through a highschool field-trip workshop. I was really enamoured by the industrial yet manual process, and it wasn't a question when it came to choosing it as a specialization. During my time at UWO I learned relief, etching, silkscreen, stone- and plate lithography. I found every process therapeutic. When it came to my final year, I requested special permission to take 4th Year Print, since it wasn't a fleshed-out course yet; there were four of us that did the same. It was in this year that I created the Steambeast series.
There is just something incredible about printmaking. It's not the fact that I can make the same image over and over again, because I'm actually the worst at registration. The process appeals to me more than accuracy... I embrace the flaws. In recent years I've become incredibly interested in monoprints and monotypes, which relates to my explorations in vitreography.
But but but! I can't get too ahead of myself.
At Sheridan I tried to continue my practice. The printshop was literally next to our classroom, and none of the print students actually used the litho stones. The print technician was very kind and allowed me access to the studio after some protocol safety tests. I managed to get at least one stone completed in my four years there... clearly not enough to me. My program was a lot more demanding. In order to properly get my printing fix in, I took Surface Design in Textiles as a minor.
Printing on fabric was a suitable replacement, I reasoned, even though silkscreening was my least-favourite method at UWO. I was pleasantly surprised when I started getting the hang of it, and more. Pigment sprays, stamping, and stenciling in any and all combination, left to my whimsy. I wasn't the best at making seamless patterns, but that was never my strong suit to begin with. I made organic compositions and tapestries. When I didn't have to worry about registration I set myself loose. I remember during one of my critiques, a classmate noted how immersed I get with the process. I love to get messy, to be unorthodox. This was my way of freely exploring abstract landscapes, the most ethereal of my works.
I had also tried to connect glass and print during my studies. One of my instructors lent me a book in which glass and print were combined. There were two processes that I was really interested in: vitreography and integrated glass printing.
(Vitreography is more of a printing process so I'll go into it here, whereas I.G.P. is more of a casting process and will be covered in another post.)
I tried to print my first glass vitreograph plate but it cracked under the pressure of the press. One of my classmates collected data for me in her travels and helped me refine the process. Since then, I've been incredibly happy with the method because you can approach it in any way you like! You can treat it as a relief, etching, or monoprint (and apparently as a lithographic surface, but I have yet to venture that far!). Glass has always been an optional material when it comes to monotyping but with my attained knowledge with it, I felt empowered. The plates could be: blasted with vinyl-cut designs (linework), liquid latex painting (for blotchy stepblasting), or photo-resist (bitmapped images); etched with a dremel or diamond pen; or treated with acid etch or gluechip.
The Lonely Hydra, a project I've been battling for a few months, has also proved that laser engraving is worth pursuing. I pulled proofs from the plates I had prepared and I am so excited to proceed with the final ones. Just yesterday I experimented with alcohol inks, because who's to say I can't use them? I like the result. You typically use alcohol inks with a gel press but whatever! Glass works just fine for me.
I'm not sure how enlightening that was for anyone but that's how traditional print works into my practice. Next week I'll talk about glass casting.
Hope you have a wonderful day,
We've got a bit of a snow-in! My trip to the studio today has been cancelled, but at least it's given me time to refine this post. I have come to realize though that I want to offer the sequence of topics up to you again since I'm a hybrid artist with many skills! In-depth explanations of mediums will start next week, so be sure to vote on my stories on Facebook and Instagram to help me decide.
I'll just run through my current projects!
Glass-/Kilncast-related work is always ongoing when I go to the studio in Aylmer, where I build up my mould library. As I mentioned last time, I'm currently working on a modified clawring of my own. 3/4 of the components have their rubber castings, while the fourth is a bit of a doozy. The pieces have been adorned with symbols relating to death and the Cycle, and I have to work through this last one so that the sculpting is readable. At that size, I have to be very particular of what symbol I end of choosing. So far I have Ouroboros snakes forming infinity, but I'm still brainstorming the middle piece. After that's done I have to sculpt it with a suitable unity within its space, which is shield-like/coat-of-arms-y.
The end game is to make a gauntlet out of impact beads or pewter. Then I plan (once my nails grow out and I take better care of my hands) to “wear” them and hold varying objects in a batch of alginate. I'd riggle my hand out (theoretically), leaving the gauntlet pieces and object wedged inside. Then I'd pour plaster to take the form of my hand, bonding with the object and pieces as well. It's obviously gonna take some trial-and-error, which is often my favourite part anyway.
I figured out what I'd like to use for my objects: small bottles with hollow-core sculptures! Pretty neat idea inspired by something in a game I play in my spare time. I have yet to work through my cores, but I've started collecting bottles to rubber cast. I've been meandering between thrifts stores scouting for interesting shapes of this size. They have to be a comfortable size to hold but not too small that the cores are impossible to read. At this scale they can be worthy tests!
For other wax/glass-related projects, I'll delve deeper into for the appropriate post.
My Lonely Hydra project will finally be underway this weekend! I have both the blasted(middle) and laser-engraved(right) plates for proofing. I'll be picking up the press from my collective later today when the snow dies down. I'm also hoping to pick up a tripod from my friend to record my process more easily. I considered maybe streaming the process live, but I'm on the fence. My workspace is not really that special and I tend to suffer from interruptions. I might change my mind, we'll see! Again, stay tuned for my stories for that.
With the press in my possession I can also revisit from old prints of mine and replenish my stock. There's something going on April 4th... clear your calendars for that date!
Lastly, on the illustration front, which includes both traditional and digital stuff. Traditionally I don't do much except for commissions or my own pleasure, unless it's for a stained-glass project but I'm not putting that on my plate right now. What I have going on (for months!) is a personal ukulele. It's basically just a precious object decorated with my favourite things. The back of it is a bit complex so when I start painting, I can't be stopped or else it takes forever to actually cover ground. Once it's completed I'll string her up and finally start fiddling with it. I grew up playing piano but I did have some affinity with the guitar. A uke would be a nice thing to play with in my down time, too.
Digital stuff is still on the go, basically whenever I have an inclination to sit at my computer all day. I have never been one to run out of ideas, and in fact, I get so many that I have a hard time completing one at a time. That's something I hope to improve on. Online shops have been a bit quiet because of it. I did however play around in Art of Where, one of my store platforms, because I do enjoy its design space. Both “Gafferdite” and “Gurasu Gods” have been renewed, this time in tandem with my shop's name, Spicy Honey Heart. I think they look pretty cool! I'll need to draw up an image logo to go along with it. I have a period of time coming up that'll be perfect for drafting these sketches.
Okay yeah I think I've prattled long enough! I'll post some polls for the next blog topic shortly after this one goes live. Stay safe out there!
I'm currently in the GTA for the weekend, slash-pleasure-slash-business. I went to The Artist Project show in Toronto in support of my colleagues, and it was an interesting space! Definitely a lot of talented folks, and it was good to note patterns and trends going on right now in the art world. I also got the chance to pick up the laser-engraved iteration of the Lonely Hydra and I'm so excited to print off of it when I'm back in London! It'll be great to compare it with the vinyl-cut and blasted iteration I worked on a few weeks back. I am a little caught up up here to I can't sit down and take pictures, so stay tuned to my instagram to see what's up.
In studio news, I've been currently working through the prep for a project! Made a rubber casting of a clawring I picked up someplace, then made my own iteration for a bigger project, down the line. I'm basically making digits for Death's gauntlet, and I plan to make a series of sculptures of holding symbolic items. I was considering casting the components in either pewter or impact beads! But I will expect obstacles to block my path and delay things. This past week is a testament of how I haven't had a chance to sit down and work digitally for the online shops, let alone anything else. I'm hoping there will be a lull in life real soon or else I'll have to start brushing people off. Life of an artist.
So, in the last two blogposts, I discussed the base concepts that fuel my creativity, and now we'll connect them to the contemporary. I will preface and say that I may not be consistent or very clear with my ideas because when it really comes down to it, it's the aesthetics that matter most to me. But I'll give explaining my reasoning a real try!
Concepts such as the sublime, hope and despair, and a graceful death still carry over into present day. Confronting fear and pain through art embodies a form of the Romantic sublime, one that questions our survival of the terrors of ourselves. A contemporary realm that does his is Anthropocene art. The term Anthropocene describes our time period, dating back to the moment Earth started showing significant symptoms of humanity's influence. Our lifestyle and its harmful consequences evoke creative minds to speculate potential dystopian outcomes if these problems persist. Artists who choose this topic as their focus often emphasize disastrous side effects (such as environmental pollution) and display them as shockingly beautiful things, so beautiful to the point it nurtures fear. They offer a reality check, if you will.
Post-apocalyptic settings in media often focus on the people living in the aftermath, and they usually depict them having adopted a regressed lifestyle. To me it relates to the cycle, or coil, of hope and despair. It's not necessarily a clean slate, because it can't quite exist like it had when time began. There would be people remembering what life was like before a calamity, as opposed to previous events spanning millions of years.
As a coil, things repeat, but not in the same way.
The fantastical narrative that attracts me, however, is a world withstanding some great equalizing event that make all other political affair or corporate conquest irrelevant. Everyone is in the same boat trying to survive in a familiar yet ultimately changed landscape, forced to adapt. That's what every other creature on this planet's had to do to co-exist with us, so it serves as a fruitful allegory. It's like the people who survive the event are a different kind of species from the people that existed before; more raw and simple, even though they could have existed in both times.
I dunno if any of that makes sense, since I usually refer to urban ruin more as a form of aesthetic than philosophy. The storytelling behind the scenes I delve is all up for interpretation. I get cautious talking about the people-side of things because it can sound a little political or preachy. Like, I've always had this innate opinion that the greatest threat to man is man itself and that our hubris will be our downfall. It's happening as we speak in the form of climate change. But yadda yadda, what about it? At this point it's a very common mindset, and I believe it can be quite pessimistic and selfish to think that way. We shrug off the responsibility when we chatter and say it's up to the big corporations to take action, and it may well be beyond us, but it becomes a whinging dirge that jumps from one generation to the next. Our attention span is too fleeting, and those who remain focused, or 'woke', end up consumed by their loneliness and hopelessness.
But despite the name or politics, most of the works in the Anthropocene realm that draw me lack any human subjects; the scenes are strictly describing what the world looks like in the absence of people, with only ghosts of their promise remaining. Urban ruins are my aesthetic. They exist in the wake of destruction, victim to some great, terrible, sublime event that rendered them asunder. Then there's a stillness, a peace, a spirit. When life still persists in the wake of death, oof! It's very pretty. The Japanese isle of Hashima, the documentary series After People, the far future in Cloud Atlas, the forbidden lands in Shadow of the Colossus.
I don't expect anyone to get all of that when they look at my work. I'm more interested in the spirit that exists in these landscapes. Romantic painters flocked to ruins as a subject since there was something seductive about their downfall and the memory left by their inhabitants. That really resonates with me, too. Angular bricks overtaken by flora, fauna constructing dens or nests in the nooks of broken structures, why, there is no final death there. Death occurred, and it's the end of someone or something, but not the end of all.
At this point I feel I've just word-vomited everywhere, but long story-short, I like ruins. They are sad, yes, but they heal overtime. Scars are beautiful. Contemporary media takes it up a notch and we get breathtaking visuals that drive the relationship between man and nature home.
Urban ruin. Post-mortem beauty. A beautiful death.
We are destructive as a species and we should do everything we feasibly can to reduce our mark. If not for us, then for everything else after us. Our world is in constant battery so it doesn't have time to heal, so any effort helps it catch up.
I want to see more healing.
Okay that's enough! It's about time we get to the craft and medium of things. I can't promise concepts won't slip in here or there but at least you get to SEE something right?
Until next time!
I hope you're all doing well! I've been quite busy this week with my own projects but I also helped with a fundraiser event with my printmaking collective. It went very well and some of my donated prints went home with such lovely people! It was a very nice evening.
Another wholesome thing: while the Commissions for Cause was a bust, I had one person follow up after the event in hopes of a commission. I told him that he could wait until the next charity event (so the proceeds could go for a cause), or pay directly to me as the artist, which he ended up deciding without hesitating. I kept the rate as it appeared on the charity event though; I had hoped the lower-priced items would invite more to donate but it did not! So I will adjust the list to directly reflect the materials and labour. This one was fine though, aside from translating the difficult pose it wasn't any trouble. As thanks for being the first to commission at all, I gifted him a complimentary print to choose from. I really enjoyed the experience!
News aside, it's time to dive into another section of my concepts: Narrative. More specifically, the narrative of Hope and Despair.
I was first invigorated to pursue this topic from one of my favourite video games, Shadow of the Colossus. It's been through a few remasters but it's been an influence of mine since its first release in 2005. Fumito Ueda, the creator of the game, tells a story of cruelty through abstraction and minimalism, dubbing his approach as design by subtraction. This approach is a method he developed to ensure that the idea or “feeling” of his concepts are unclouded by overt substance and clear narrative, oddly reminiscent of Romantic sublime qualities. To be more specific, the size of the monsters the player is faced to kill, the picturesque landscape spanning countless leagues, and the instances of overwhelming saturations of light fulfill some of Edmund Burke's guidelines. The narrative one can derive from this game is one of cruelty and senseless sacrifice, as illustrated by this quote: “when you have killed all sixteen colossi, you feel loss rather than triumph”. I feel that the basis of Shadow of the Colossus' narrative lends to the relationship between hope and despair, in which the confrontation of certain consequences results in further sacrifice, but this time in the form of reconciliation.
In literature, Paradise Lost is a great example that explores this narrative. John Milton's epic poem recounts the fall of humanity through a more elaborate retelling of what occurred in the Garden of Eden, starting with Satan's own fall from heaven and ending with Jesus' resurrection. It is through the consumption of fruit from the Tree of Knowledge that original sin is birthed and final death is introduced to the world, the consequence for disobeying God: “Greedily [Eve] engorged without restraint, and knew not eating death” (Milton, Book 9: 791 – 792). When further investigating the significance of the gardens that exist in Christianity, consequences of Adam and Eve's actions are thus noted:
“No longer would Adam and Eve enjoy a flawless environment. Instead, among other things, childbirth pains would intensify and man's labour became toilsome and less efficient as thorns and thistles would infest the ground – the ground to which they would ultimately return in death.”
It is this mistake taking place in Eden that creates a deep despair in which neither Adam nor his ancestors can ever personally repent. However, the poem expresses that this ordeal may have been somewhat fortunate. According to Christian belief, it is in the coming of “the second Adam”, Jesus Christ, that humanity can also experience salvation. Jesus suffers in Gethsemane and dies in Calvary, absolving the sin Adam and Eve committed under Satan's advice. The story of Paradise Lost provides a much more personal conceptualization of Christianity's pursuit of redemption and everlasting life by explaining the birth and conquest of the final death, which relates to my interest in post-mortem beauty and a beautiful death.
Which we'll get to later!!
In my process document, I go into a very quick explanation of what hope and despair contribute to our lives. Experiencing a balance of both in your life contributes to the growth and maintenance of the human soul. A surplus of either entity will result in overconfidence and complacency (hope) or debilitating anxiety (despair). Nobody chooses to experience tragedy, nor do they enjoy it, but it's important not to live life fearing it or treading delicately through life to avoid it, because it's inevitable. It's going to find you at any point and in any form, and what you can choose to do is be open to it and its presence. Address it as what it is and come to an understanding.
I feel the most prevalent despair that we share as a sentient species is the fear or dread of death.
Romanticist artist Francisco Goya, in the later years of his life, composed the Black Paintings. These murals displayed horrific scenes on the walls of his living room, dining room, hallways... I believe these to be results of Goya coming to terms with his fear of death and mental state. Frescos such as The Drowning Dog and Saturn allowed Goya to release all tension accumulated during his lifetime. He was able to explore themes of sorrow, pathos and panic with complete freedom. I argue that this form of expression is a way of confronting despair and crafting hope for self-care. Experiencing close encounters with death, he bought a property away from the city and chose to express himself in ways that no patron would have the mind to request. These paintings were meant for his own private viewing, in which he expelled these morbid scenes from his mind and onto his walls. Upon given a form, despair and death seemed much more manageable.
Other instances can be a bit more subtle in terms of addressing death. Vanitas still-life acted simultaneously as a comment on Dutch citizens' vanity for their material possessions and as a prompt that mortality is temporary. Memento mori, the reminder of death. The presence of certain iconography, like skulls, timepieces, or cracked walnuts imply something or someone that no longer exists elsewhere exists in the painting. The commissioning of such pieces connotes a belief that paintings immortalize the presence of whomever the vanitas is referring to. Artists often inserted small self-portraits of themselves for this reason, given that any of the objects have a reflective surface. I believe that this idea helped artists and patrons alike with handling the idea of death, reminding them that their worldly possessions will not serve them in the afterlife. The idea that there is an afterlife at all strips death of its finality, making it more easy to accept.
But we don't know what lies in the realm of death. A garden, a kingdom, or pure darkness. We can believe what we've been taught or believe the accounts of those revived when they flatline. Or call it all lies. We believe what makes us feel better about it because we know it's inevitable. The key, I feel, is to not be consumed with a fear for it, neither be so careless or apathetic to its existence. You know, a balance of hope of despair.
Coming full circle, baby!
Personally I try to take a more positive outlook on death. I focus in on the idea life goes on even when our life doesn't. I am in love with the idea that once I'm gone, some new form of life or spirit flourishes in my remains. There is something so dang gorgeous about post-apocalyptic scenery, where nature reclaims the industrial landscape. Life and death, hope and despair, are not simply cycles to me, but coils. It's gonna be different, but the same, every time.
Things got a bit grim, but we'll get over it. This one has a few paragraphs from my research essay two years ago, which provided a basis for my process document and my 2019 thesis works, Anthrocopia and Self-Vanitas. Next week I'll dive into how all of this relates to the contemporary sphere and to my practice.
I hosted a poll last week on the contents of this post and “Concepts & Inspirations” won over “Medium & Craft”! I will do both, this just determined which one I would do first. I got caught up in some tasks and commission work so I'll try and give you a comprehensive summary of the things I consider when diving into new work.
I would say it's fair to start from the beginning, which would be Western. Before this point (aka. Elementary & highschool) I was mostly interested in drawing fantasy and cartoons, which can be the case for any kid who loves to draw what they love. As I mentioned in a previous post, I loved drawing dragons. When it came to secondary-education, they wanted me to think about it more. Fantasy still supplied most of my work, even though they tried to beat it out of me, which is probably why I wasn't cut for fine art at the time. I found solace when I learned about Romanticism.
If you're unfamiliar with the movement, it was the time during the Industrial Revolution when artists started rejecting classical values and the mechanical (logic & machine) in favour of the spirit that exists within ourselves and the landscape (emotion & the world). It wasn't necessarily regressive in nature, they just found the path of progress not without its consequences. I think I summarized it well enough in a document I made in my final year at Sheridan, and I'll highlight some keywords as we go:
“Ever since I was first introduced to the Romantic movement over a decade ago, I still believe the best way to describe their motive as thus: to evoke a “stirring of the heart”.
"The artists during this time, late 18th to mid-19th century, had a preoccupation with valuing emotion over logic. Social and political conflicts urged artists to respond through their work and elicit a stronger response from the public. Landscape painters sought the picturesque and used the landscape as a vessel for allegory: a union between soul and the natural world. Sometimes the presence of people was only noted by their memory in the form of architectural ruin. Romantics tried to harness a more spiritual energy to charge their work, which many of them did when they reacted to the world of their time. Many of these artists referred to the writings of Edmund Burke, who described the various relationships of beauty and the sublime.
"The Sublime is an experience caused by something that inspires both awe and terror. Burke theorized the various traits that contribute to this feeling, many of which Romantic artists utilized in their paintings. Such characteristics include magnitude, sensory intensity, and the degree of danger it presents the viewer. This presented threat held at a distance sparks pleasure in the guise of “survival”. A painting can house dark and terrible things, yet be composed in stunning, breathtaking scenes that dwarf and humble the viewer.
"Romantic artists and theorists like Burke wished to issue a warning to humanity, that in forgetting our spirituality and our relationship with the landscape, we deprive ourselves of an enlightenment that only the sublime can help us obtain. This mixture of awe and terror, of hope and despair, allows artists and viewers alike the chance to experience serenity on a level that logic could never offer.”
When it came to Burke's writing I was only ever interested in what constituted the Sublime. I don't much care for his outlook on women but I remind myself that it was a different time. If you'd like to look up his work it's now public domain and you can read it online here:
What does this all mean to me, then. Well I'm a very emotional person, so emotional to the point I can't go without destroying myself. Rarely do I express anger interpersonally because the intensity of it is too much for the regular person. Sometimes I wonder to myself if its a form of emotional immaturity, but I feel I would be much too apathetic otherwise. I am aware of what is both beautiful and ugly in this world, and I am not consumed in the game of life to cope with it. When I draw monsters, death or ruin, it really isn't a matter of what's conventionally good or bad. It can be both. This is my way of coping, of reflection.
When I pair that with fantasy, I feel even more fulfilled. Imagine that my body is a lens, and when the world we know passes through me, it becomes magnified and transformed. I remember having a talk with a friend once; fantasy worldbuilding is the most successful when it's believable. From the outside eye, my world might not look it, but it contains many of the building blocks of reality. Sometimes their forms are so raw that they're not immediately recognizable. It's also ever-shifting, which can be daunting to many and even to myself sometimes. Soul and emotion govern it all, so I can't have much say in the matter.
How sickeningly poetic eh? I never considered myself a romantic in the traditional sense but this sort of begs the question. I can't tell you if I'd be a model example of a Neo-Romanticist either. Maybe if it's an umbrella term... I guess I'll know by the end of my lifespan.
I thiiiiiiiiink that should be it for today. I've been esoteric enough for the week. Yet it's just one segment of my concepts, oh boy! Tune in next week and I'll talk about narrative.
Looks like Medium's gonna have to wait a couple weeks, oops!