I actually had to wait a bit before posting this. Partly because I needed to print the lino block I had carved, partly because I needed to crawl out of the pit I was in for a few days. I just wanted to be left alone to work through the natural feelings that come along with massive life change and I didn't want well wishes and offers to go for coffee to talk out my feelings. This was an inner battle. Feeling more optimistic now and moving forward again.
That being said, I have a back log of posting because in the course of my recovery I feel like this story is best told in chronological order. (of course clicking on that link leads you to most recent meningioma blog post first, so you'll just have to back track if you are new to this situation and want to read more about my crazy world).
The above image is actually meant to illustrate a poem that I wrote, so it came second (which is different for me) My husband asked "why did you write a poem?" to which I helpfully responded "I don't know." then there was an awkward pause. Writing poems is also different for me. I am not one to express emotions and personal stuff using words. Or rather, I should say "I WASN'T one to express emotions and personal stuff using words" because everything is different even though everything looks the same. Things I get to grapple with using previously under utilized parts of my brain.
In the interest of getting this posted, I am just going to transcribe what I wrote with minimal editing. If I wasn't in recovery mode, I would knock this poem around for a while, honing it to where I want it to be and then I would set it in lead type and print an accompanying edition to go with the linocut. Or print them together. This all feels too hard so you get the rough copy. Oh yeah, I didn't write this in my sketchbook. I seem to have lost that somewhere in my house. I've had too many words lately and some are too personal for this blog, so I moved that crazy train over to a standard notebook.
I've asked myself many, many times in the past week "why bother?" I have also seriously thought about just wrapping up this part of my journey and unlinking from the sidebar on my blog and going back to making art. I'm refraining at the moment because I'm not posting poetic ruminations for attention (so if it looks that way, stay with me for a moment) I committed to the experiment of "what happens if you take an artist and then perform brain surgery on them?" and I want to see this through. Even though it looks like a pity party sometimes. Or I write poems.
In some ways this has been difficult to process because my physical recovery on the surface has outpaced my processing of the past few months. However, I am not fully recovered physically and the Pandora's Box of "what the heck is my life now" has only just opened. So I have ugly days occasionally. My husband astutely noticed that when I have a breakthrough day (i.e. carving a lino block for the first time, going running a little at the track etc) I very often am a wreck the next day. Physically, mentally and emotionally. Progress comes at a steep price. Now that I know this, I am being more careful on how much progress I let in at once.
To frame my poem, it came from my visualizing exercises that I've been doing. I kept coming back to a weird visual space that was like a storm on a beach. So I put words to the mental image, then I illustrated it. Please note, I am not a poet nor am I looking for poetic critique. Please also note, this is kind of raw and it makes me uncomfortable with sharing it, but maybe it'll help to understand the process of getting better. I'm okay now and I repeat I'm not looking for a chance to get together and talk about our feelings. We can just text each other dumb memes instead. Like we usually do.
One night a small boat washed ashore
The sky purple and flashing
As I went to investigate
Puzzle over its purpose
I noticed beside it
In the shallow crashing waves
Many of my dreams and those of others
Succumbing to the water
Some had expired a long time ago
Their corpses fetid, bloating
I hadn't noticed them before for some reason
I laid them on the sand, rescued
Others were newly deceased
Some so small and full of potential
Some so large they were difficult to pull
From the sea on my own
On the beach I made a
Morbid procession of these ideas
I noticed some weakly floundering, barely alive
I put them in bucket to save them
Turning back to the lost
I found a box to fit each one, provide shelter
Re-purposed for this funeral
Colourful cardboard betrayal
It didn't do them justice
Just hid the awful reality
So I carefully chose thick cream paper
The colour of brides
I covered each box with stiff paper
Making sharp creases
Hiding the truth, giving it honour
Sealing in the decay
Then carefully as if lifting babies
Deep in slumber
I placed each box, acknowledged
Into the awful, tiny boat
At last I pushed the boat
Into deep water, like a pyre
I let it drift away, to the past
Released into the future.
I have finally taken a moment to post *some* of my upcoming classes for sketching, painting, mixed media and printmaking - there are even more in the pipeline! For the ones I haven't posted yet, I'm just awaiting registration links (so keep checking back), I'll put them up as I have everything confirmed.
I was thinking about it today and I thought I would do a blog post to highlight a unique Christmas gift idea: knowledge. If you have a loved one in your life who you struggle to buy "stuff" for, perhaps a class or workshop would be a great fit. Oftentimes those hard to buy for types are more satisfied through experiences and the gift of time.
If you know someone who always talks about wanting to try something new, is looking to start a fresh chapter in their life, has an interest in trying new art forms or wants to revisit something they've tried in the past - may I suggest one of my workshops (1 or 2 day courses) or a weekly class? I would love to see them (or you) there!
This upcoming season I have a really full calendar, a lot of which is happening right here in Cochrane - some of the upcoming classes I've put onto my home page. I will also be doing some workshops at Kensington Art Supplies, Leighton Art Centre, Kelowna Art Gallery to name a few!
Now, that being said, should you be looking for a more traditional gift, I have lots of my paintings, flour sack cloths and prints available at Bluerock Gallery, the Leighton Art Centre and Muk Luk Magpies. Contact me if you are looking for something in particular or to commission a piece!
How cool is this? Calgary Arts Development contacted me this week wanting to feature the above photograph for their Calgary Living a Creative Life series! They also asked me to share some thoughts on how I live a creative life. This is the article in it's entirety here.
What a neat surprise to have happen this week! The creative team over at CAD was great to work with too - thanks guys!
The short answer is yes, you can print using linoleum flooring. While they are very similar, I found there were some differences to this material from artist grade linoleum. Recently, my sister (who works for a flooring company), gave me some samples of discontinued linoleum flooring to try. On initial inspection, they looked almost identical to battleship grey artist grade lino.
To touch, I found that the flooring was more pliable and had a very, very slight texture to the cutting surface. I did not sand this sample down, because I wanted a baseline test to see what out-of-the-box lino would be like to work with. In future tests though, I will take a very fine grit sandpaper to the surface to reduce this. It almost feels like a surface coating.
Cutting the flooring was a pleasure. I honestly breezed through the entire sample. It was somewhere between a soft block and standard artist grade. It held the tool well without me feeling like I had to force anything. The line quality was decent. One thing I noticed though was hit the bottom layer very easily (making for a not as pretty block) Since it is a thinner material, there is a finer layer of the linoleum surface on the hessian.
Once I got to inking the piece, I noticed the surface texture a lot more. It is very smooth but minutely pebble like to touch. When I rolled the brayer of oil based ink on it, I noticed it didn't drink it up quite the same way as the first layer of ink on artist grade linoleum.
I let it sit for a moment to soak in, applied another coat of ink and then proceeded to print. After a few proof prints, it printed almost identically for for the first 10 prints or so. I achieved nice inky, deep blacks and crisp lines with the usual amount of effort. As an aside, I pull prints with the help of an antique book press, so I don't know if hand burnishing would get the same results.
I found after about 10 prints, I started fighting an odd resistance to the ink. I noticed my edges were fuzzing out a little here and there and had a closer look at the block. I appeared to be that the all the cut lines were pushing back the ink. I blotted the block when I noticed this happening and it seem to alleviate the issue for a few prints but it always came back. I'm pretty sure sanding the coating off the top layer is the way to fix this issue.
All in all, I will keep experimenting on this, for sure. I really like how it carved and I like the fact that if I wanted a bigger piece to work on, this would be an economical way to get materials. I'm not worried about the "artist grade" part of this on a conservation level because the time span that a block is in use is so short and the contact with things that need to be artist grade (ink and paper) is very brief, it wouldn't have much of an effect. Remember, flooring is where linocut printmaking all began in the Die Brucke movement... it was a cheap, easily sourced alternative to woodcut blocks.
Stay tuned for the reveal of the print I made with this block! I'm not quite done with it yet.
I have exciting news - I've taken the step of seeking out gallery representation! This move has been in the making for some time, I wanted very much to find a gallery that not only suited my paintings, but also was supportive of my printmaking and letterpress work as well.
I am delighted to partner with Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond, Alberta - they have an amazing collection and great curation. Every time I step foot in this space, there is a buzz of colour and energy. There are many artists also represented with this gallery that I feel honoured to share wall space with.
Check out what work of mine they are carrying here. Thank you, Bluerock!
I am so happy to have a chance to sneak a trip in to the Lower Mainland in British Colombia before the mountain roads get super unpredictable. I do have my winter tires on, just in case though!
This weekend I have three demos at Opus Langley - an amazing art store that has been a part of my life for over 20 years! The two Saturday demos are all about Acrylic based products and how you can use them together in a variety of ways to create your art. The Sunday morning demo covers mixed media printmaking and some different approaches you can take to get striking results. There is room in the Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning class for sure - it is not too late to register (see below for registration info). I'll have along some interesting examples, lots of products and my usual enthusiasm - it would be amazing to see you if you can join me.
Also, I have received some inquiries already about bringing flour sack clothes and artwork for purchase to save on shipping. If you are wanting anything in particular or have questions on what is available for early Christmas shopping - please contact me by Thursday night and I can let you know what is available, prices and arrange drop off at your place. I accept Visa, Mastercard, and cash, receipts are no problem as well. (I might even throw in a little discount as well!)
Here are the descriptions:
Opus Art Supplies, Langley: Intermixing Acrylics with Flair and Ease Demonstration
Sat, September 30, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Sat, September 30, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Join Michelle Wiebe as she explores the versatility of intermixing various types and brands of acrylic paints and mediums.
From ink, fluid, spray and standard heavy body paints, she will demystify the differences between them and give you ways can breathe fresh life into your work. She will explore some techniques on paper and canvas that will combine these products in inventive ways so you can bring together new body and textures for your own signature style.
Space is limited and registration is required.
Please visit Opus Langley or contact them at 604‑533‑0601 to register.
Opus Art Supplies, Langley: Breaking Boundaries in Mixed Media Printmaking Demonstration
Sun, October 1, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Add colour to your linocut printmaking through a variety of mediums and techniques.
Join Michelle Wiebe as she covers a number of approaches one can take with mixed media printing. Demonstration time will cover basic linocut carving, inking and printing skills as well as how to use them with other art materials.
Emphasis will be placed on utilizing other dry and wet media with your carved block in a number of different approaches to create one of a kind art with a few simple tools.
Space is limited and registration is required.
Please visit Opus Langley or contact them at 604‑533‑0601 to register.
One thing I really love about instructing is that I often will create work to illustrate a point or technique. To prepare for my upcoming workshop at Leighton and demonstration at Opus, I decided to noodle around with some hand coloured linocut prints.
After painting with a limited palette for months, it sure was fun to add splashes of colour to this variable edition of one of a kind prints. I've been playing around with Daniel Smith watercolours and they sure pack a punch with rich, vibrant colour. These are titled "Made of Stars" and will be available for purchased, framed and unframed fairly shortly. Contact me if you have any questions or want me to put one aside for you.
Where to begin? Fall is here, kicking and screaming and I finally feel like I've had a chance to come up for air.
Studio Expansion: My garage is now officially a core component to my studio practice. Late July, we welcomed a third press to our family: a Chandler and Price Old Style platen floor model. Some good friends helped us load and move this along with a paper cabinet, composing table, type cabinet and full sized paper cutter. I am truly blessed.
The flip side to this is making room and extra clean up. Almost all of my open studio time in August has been spent puttering away in my garage doing glamorous jobs like scraping old labels, sanding, painting and degreasing. We are in the homestretch now which is good - winter is coming and my car needs it's shelter for parking!
On a side note, paper cabinets are a beautiful thing. With 25 shallow drawers, this is for my art supplies like what the wardrobe is for Narnia. Things feel so in reach and organized!
Current Projects: I'm in the early stages of some small still life and landscapes for the upcoming Christmas season. I am also busy printing all sorts of letterpress goodies for market as well. Add in some collaboration involving a laser engraver, block printing more flour sack cloths, instructing as well as the aforementioned studio expansion and I am a busy girl.
Website Update: I've cleaned things up and added some greater detail on events and workshops. I've been planning this out in my head for a while and finally sat down long enough to get it all up on the web. I still have loads more pictures and details to add, but this should suffice for the moment. I have a love hate relationship with digital tinkering.
Plein Air Postponement: My deepest apologies to all of you who have expressed interest in further plein air meetups - this has been on my mind constantly. I had a domino effect happen with that equipment acquisition that affected too many areas of my household. Add in multiple extra weekend bookings for August and I couldn't make it happen. Stay tuned for spring though - I have some alternate ideas I'd like to try out with plein air!
Long time, no update. It has been very busy both in the studio and in our household. One of the things taking a lot of my time lately has been Letterpress related. It is a long (and hopefully interesting) story that I am saving for it's own post (Hint: it involves costumes and moving crazy heavy pieces of machinery!) Anyways, in amongst all this busyness, life in my studio has been puttering along at a brisk pace.
I love this time of year because the roads are reliably decent and the weather is good so I can plan to travel to deliver fresh art, teach or demonstrate. Here is some stuff I have coming up in the next few weeks in June and July:
Muk Luk Magpies: The initial batch of Flour Sack Clothes sold very quickly so I recently dropped off a large batch with lots of colours and patterns. Just in time for teacher gifts! You can get store hours and more information here.
Impressions Printmaking Exhibition: The Leighton Art Centre invited me to participate in this upcoming show done in partnership with the Alberta Printmakers Society. There are some amazing local artists represented here, so I am quite excited to hang my work on the same walls as them! The opening for this show is this Saturday from 2 - 4 pm. Hope to see you there!
Canada Day at Just Imajan Art Gallery: I will be painting alongside 14 other local Cochrane artists during the Canada Day festivities. I'm looking forward to connecting with the locals and will demonstrate my process as well as have a selection of my work available for sale (working on some fresh stuff that I hope will be ready on time!). You can get more information here.
On the Road Travel Sketching Workshop: SECOND DATE ADDED We are so pleased to be able to add a send date for this sketching workshop at the Leighton Art Centre. The July 8th date filled up really quickly and we think there is ample interest in adding a second date. I think its the combination of getting out there with a sketchbook in hand paired with mysteries of bringing art supplies with you when you travel. We are going to cover both of these in an action packed day long class! Second class date is July 15th - I hope you can make it. You can register here.
Red Deer College Basic Linocut Printmaking: I am very excited to be offering a class through this venue! I believe there is still room to sign up if you are in the Central Alberta area and want to take the plunge into creating your own relief prints. You can register here.
If you have any questions about any of these classes, my work or how to book me as an instructor, please send me a message and I am happy to get back to you! Its been a great start to summer and I am really pumped about these upcoming events.
Airdrie, Alberta is home to a very neat studio and shop, Mukluk Magpies. While it is primarily a stain glass operation (trust me, they are one of the best in Alberta for all things glass related), they have been steadily amassing the work of regional artisans to sell through their gift shop as a complement to their other wares.
This morning I brought in a full selection of Flour Sack Cloths, Letterpress printed cards, framed Linocut prints and some paintings. I'm really excited to have another venue to show my work through.
You can find hours, directions and more on their website here.