Monday, February 28, 2011

Something Odd & Something for the Animals

dinosaur portraitVote for your favorite 'Odd' themed item from the Trans-Canada Etsy Team here. I might be biased, but I think you should vote for my Arsinoitherium Lady. ;)

Lady Giggleswick Thinks of LoveI was asked to donate an image to FARP - the Fabulous Animal Rescue Project. You can read about it here. They recuit Etsy sellers to donate images which they use to produce and sell merchandice on Etsy, with all proceeds going to animal rescue charities. things from secret minouette places is a pro-animal shop, being owned by a small, opinionated cat and all. I thought that the protrait of Orbit, aka Lady Giggleswick would be just the thing. She seems the sort of affectionate young canine who would want to spread the love to less fortunate animals.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dolly Spectrum

Hello Dolly! monoprint

I made a second print of my Dolly-the-cloned-sheep block. I was initially thinking of a multi-colour Dolly print, somewhat in the vein of a Warholesque print at the Year of the Rabbit show. I was a bit worried about borrowing that aesthetic - the balance between a little nudge-nudge-wink-wink allusion and cliché is not easy. I also wanted to communicate a sense of movement to allude to the cloning: one Dolly-two Dolly-three Dolly more... So, after printing Dolly on a number of coloured somegami origami kozo (or mulberry paper) sheets, I switched gears and formulated the rainbow-spectrum plan (ROYGBV). The successive Dollies, from red to violet, are placed at smaller seperations to give that sense of movement, like fanning a deck of cards.

The image is a stitched scan. We figured out how to do this with my new scanner and Photoshop, with some swearing and some laughing, but ultimate success last night. So now, I can scan the rest of my larger prints! Sometimes it pays to be extremely stubborn. ;)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Clouds & Hearts

scanned detail of clouds I reprinted my cloud classification linocut on some paler sky blue paper (handmade Moriki Kozo paper from Japan). The clouds represented are shown as they would appear in the sky; the lower altitude clouds are lowest, the mid-altitude clouds in the middle and the high altitude clouds at the top. We have cumulonimbus, stratocumulus and cumulus at the bottom. There are three types of altocumulus and one altostratus in the middle. The top level contains cirrocumulus and two types of cirrus clouds. Each is denoted by its own symbol. I love symbols and the cloud symbols are like some sort of modern, rounder runes of the atmosphere.

clouds 2nd edition

The sheets are 17.5 inches wide by 12.6 inches tall (44.4 cm by 32 cm). The second edition contains 4 prints.

Also, I made it to 900 hearts on etsy today! Yay! I love hearts. I really do. Thanks to everyone who has 'favorited' my shop.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Sometimes I carve a lino block and it doesn't quite come out how I intended. Sometimes this is great, or interesting, or something I live with. Of course, my own taste is no gauge of what others may like. Today, I editioned my quail block, because Reynardin told me how much she liked it. Maybe it's better than I think it is. Based on comments, though I don't think I captured the quintessential quail movement, I at least caught that funny little head-cocking movement they make.

Quail linocut scan

Quail face linocut detail

Quails on the line

When I lived on Vancouver Island, I regularly saw families of California Quail, bumbling around, looking somewhat officious, yet completely adorable. This is an original lino block printed quail on cream-coloured Japanese kozo, or mulberry paper, 10.5 inches by 7.75 inches or 26.6 cm by 19.7 cm. It is inked à la poupée which means small areas are inked in different colours, using a single lino block. It is one of a first edition of only 8 prints.

Flora & Fauna & Type

I was thinking how much I like to combine flora and fauna and type. I've been looking at my existing prints, finishing editions and printing second edtions of things, like my mushrooms. The Méfiez-vous de la contrafaçon print has never been editioned. I've only printed monoprints (artist's proofs), but they've proven popular, so perhaps I should print en entire edition. (It's 8.5 x 11 inches, or 21.6 cm by 27.9, whereas the 'Fly Agaric' is a wee little print at about 3.5 inches by 6.25 inches or 9 cm by 16 cm, inked à la poupée, or with multiple colours on a single block).

Méfiez-vous de la contrafaçon -proof

Fly Agaric 2nd edition

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hello (cloned) Dolly!

scan of Dolly linocut

detail of Dolly linocutSo, this February, the Mad Scientists of Etsy challenge is Keith Campbell the biologist, who was part of the team that produced the cloned sheep Dolly. You remember Dolly? She was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell, using the process of nuclear transfer. She was born 5 July 1996. Usually, when the theme is a scientist, I do a portrait. I am a little more wary about the 20th century scientists, because we lack distance. Further, being out-numbered by biologists, on the Mad Scientists team, we do get some characters about whom I know next to nothing. Undoubtedly, Dolly was a big science story, but I know nothing of Campbell and I can't say that naming this sheep, cloned from a mammary cell, for the "most impressive mammaries" really impresses me. Ms. Parton has a great sense of humour, but that doesn't mean that I support objectification. I wouldn't want to be humourless, but people are more than their parts. Likewise, sheep. Though really, I suspect we likely need more distance to fully grasp the ethics of cloning issues too, so this is not that kind of post. No, this is simpler: the really cool thing about block printing is that one gets (or can get) multiple originals so there's a obvious analogy to cloning. The title I'm blaming on the accidental punning headline-writer. After groaning, I decided RJH's comment of "Hello Dolly!" was corny but funny. Plus, I'm obsessed with typography. He also said I chose to "go pink or go home" but I really wanted the contrast with the gray. I must say, my magenta ink is the pits. I wonder if it's a bad batch or whether there's some sort of chemical problem with their emulsifier. Anyhow, enjoy the sheep: edition of 6 on Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper, each sheet is 12.5 inches wide by 10.25 inches tall (31.8 cm by 26 cm).

I must run. I'm in the middle of a symposium on scientific visualization. This is my lunch break.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Albino Peacock in Space

albino peacock in space

I need to refine the title, but this is an multimedia piece I've been working on and finally finished. It's been kicking around my head since the fall, and I had some minor ambition to finish it in time for the A Hidden Place show, but decided I preferred to take my time. Like the submerine piece, this piece takes place in some sort of roccoco vessel - this time a space vessel rather than a submersible. Imagine the peacock in front of an elaborate rosette window. The night sky is in multiple layers of acrylic (including glow-in-the-dark stars) and acrylic medium. The silver walls are spray paint (and silver ink) on the tin ceiling tile I found outside 1254Art. The peacock's core is drawn and painted on watercolour paper with acrylic ink and collaged Japanese washi paper, mounted on canvas paper and sewn to the tile. That's right: I sewed it, with my power drill.

peacock body detail
peacock tail detail

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

one small step...

moon1-1 RJH sent me an email with that title, containing this snapshot of a housefly on my vintage moon globe*. I think this is a sign that he's at least as crazy as I am. I told him, when he took the photo that it was very Ed Wood.

*As opposed to my contemporary moon globe, which I keep in my office at work, 'cause a girl needs two moon globes. In fact, I really must start making some planetary globes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

scan of multimedia valentine Hope you're having a good Valentine's Day. It's a strange sort of holiday. We all know love is where it's at, but that needn't mean it's limited to couples and traditional ideas of love, or another reason to spend money. I had to explain to someone at a bookstore the other day that I wasn't interested in her coupon (get a discount on books if you buy a greeting card) because nothing could convince me to buy a mass-produced greeting card. Personally, as you may know, I am overly fond of cinnamon hearts. I like to eat them until my mouth turns red, which is surely unhealthy, but it's tradition, and only occurs once a year. When I was living in Tokyo (briefly) I noticed how the Japanese love to import a good holiday, but occasionally something is lost or gained in translation. The version of Valentine's Day I saw there involved emergency chocolate pop-up stores on every corner, with lines, hundreds of metres long, of women (in stilettos - it was like a uniform), desperate to buy chocolate for the men in their lives.

This can be a rotten day to be alone, and it can be difficult for those in committed relationships too because of unnecessary expectations. So, when I made some valentines I tried to stick with something lighthearted (brains are big with the zombie-set) though open to interpretation. But also, a valentine appropriate for sending love to friends too - cause I love my friends, don't you?

I am very happy to be having a good day (surprised with flowers, instructions not to look in what must surely be a gift-hiding place and plans for dinner). To anyone reading this, I hope your day is going well, that you know that your people love you, and that you can do as much or as little as you want to recognize the day. Now, though I'm happy in steel-toes, coveralls and a hardhat, I'm also enough of a girl that I to need to try on several dresses and question what I will wear, so I must run.

Friday, February 11, 2011

urban rhythms

Using the New York City's actual subway system schedule, routes, and expected travel times, recordings of cello pizzicato and a wee bit of artistic licence, Alexander Chen has created Conductor.

Conductor: from Alexander Chen on Vimeo.

He chose certain parameters for aesthetic reasons (colours, fading lines, number of allowed simultaneous trains, and how to relate length to pitch). I love how both visually and audibly the lines appear to be plucked. "When a string is in the middle of being drawn by a subway car, its pitch is continually shifting." The pitch of the sound is determined by length of the straight-line segments but rather to avoid dissonance he stuck with, a "simple major C scale but with the lowest note as a raised third E, which keeps it from ever feeling fully resolved."

{via bioephemera}

Meanwhile, French artist Armelle Caron in her Anagrammes graphiques de plans de villes - 2005 / 2008 series takes cities and deconstructs them into their constituent blocks, arranges these by size and shape and reveals the inner rhythms experienced by the pedestrian - like an anagram of a sentence.*



New York


{via Planetary Folklore}

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Analogy, Metaphor, Literature and the Brain

scan of multimedia valentineThis morning I've been listening to A.S. Byatt being interviewed by the Australian Radio National 'All in the Mind' for National Science Week. It was a great pleasure to hear a favorite author talk about her love of science, her horror at the idea that the English Department would be the centre of the University, snail neurons, mirror neurons, her mind maps (though she doesn't use that term) and the colours of her novels (in an almost synesthesian* sense).

I am fascinated by the intersection of art and science, and this is one of the reasons I am so fond of her novels. She quite clearly articulates that she understands what some of her more disdainful peers in literature did not; that science is very much a creative field of endeavour. Further, she explains how she develops some of the key concepts underlying her novels (specifically Babel Tower) through the process of analogy, which she links to metaphor. Byatt is quite obsessed with metaphor, as well as being very interested in neurology. As such, I always think she should read one of my other favorite authors, Douglas Hofstadter. I am always telling people they should read Gödel, Escher, Bach, and then refusing to lend it to them, because I need to have it on my bookshelf at all time.**

Hofstadter works in artificial intelligence, so he thinks very deeply about how it is we think. He feels that analogy is the core of cognition, as he explains in the amusing and unpretentious lecture included below (the unpretentious part his lecture itself begins at 13.5 minutes in). When I was in grad school and he came to give a physics colloquium. He was trained as a physicist (and in fact, his father was a Nobel laureate in physics). He created a wonderful lecture on how Einstein, in his miraculous year (1905 - wherein he discovered the core of special relativity and much of the core of quantum mechanics), came up with his ideas through the process of ANALOGY. Einstein was also a great and honest observer of his own mind. The talk as I recall it, in fact, went through the entire history of physics and explained it all as a process of analogy. I'll give you but a hint: Rutherford proposed his model of the atom (which of course is both wrong, and a revolutionary step forward) with electrons circling the positively-charged nucleus by analogy to our model of the solar system, with planets orbiting the sun.

I think it is quite wonderful that Byatt can look to science as a means of enriching her literature - not simply with pretty metaphors, but in a deep structural sense, and Hofstadter can look at the tiniest linguistic errors we make***, and see them as data on how it is we actually think. In the interview Byatt speaks about mirror neurons - neurons which light up both when we perform an act and when we see an act performed. This is explained as a possible source of empathy. I wonder if this mirroring (which I've seen also postulated as an explanation for how we understand facial expression) does in fact indicate that on a fundamental level we understand actions we observe directly from analogy - not just in a higher level 'software' sense, as Hofstadter tends to discuss, but in a neuron-level 'hardware' sense as well.

*Is this a word? I think it should be. I created it by analogy.
**I made an exception for the time, years ago, I convinced my friend JM to go get it signed by Hofstadter, since I had to teach when he was speaking with the grad students in our department. JM was a good sport. I confess I was actually unsure I wanted to meet Hofstadter - because I was uncertain he would match the mental construct I had formed of him in my head. This is ironic since I formed my ideas about mental constructs of people partly by reading Hofstadter's Le Ton Beau de Marot (which of course, is in English).
***He collects linguistic slips. My favorite, of the spoken errors in English by native speakers, which I have observed is one made by my friend Jill. Jill once said, "I'm turd, even though I have a chordle-neck on." I love that 'turd' came from 'turtle' and 'cold' not only swapped places with the first syllable of 'turtle', it also morphed into 'chord', because, presumably, she couldn't drop the 'r' sound. (Also, it's quite interesting that I typed 'turdle' before correcting myself with 'turtle'). But, most of all, I love that she said, "I'm turd" and persisted with her sentence despite the fact that I was laughing uncontrollably. Incidentally, Jill also faces a prospect discussed late in this lecture. That was a teaser, to try to intice you to listen to it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Owl and the Pussycat - pillows

Owl & pussycat
minouette 029
minouette 010

The Owl and the Pussycat are now together in my shop. My namesake cat, Minouette's portrait is blockprinted in mauve on gold silk fabric, and a western screech-owl in is blockprinted in brown on gold silk. The reverse is a wonderful print fabric illustrating their tale. (The set: ocean as turquoise, knit, throw blanket, boat, sky & sun as Japanese washi paper. The Owl is about 22 cm or 8.5 talls and Minouette is 7 inches or 18 cm tall)


RJH photographed Minouette and her mini-me.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mr. Otus Kennicottii

detail scan of screech-owl

I think he's squinting at you in disbelief, this Western Screech-Owl (Otus kennicottii). He's pretty well life-sized. The Western Screech-Owl, common to woodlands throughout western North America, grows to be 8.5 inches or 22 cm tall. This one is the nourthwest coast type I would have seen when I lived on Vancouver Island. You can tell because he's more brown and less gray. All the raptors out there were very impressive. They gave the impression that they were just tolerating our presence and the Island really belonged to them.

I carved Mr. Otus Kennicottii in linoleum and printed him in water-based block printing ink, on Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper, in an edition of six prints. Each print is 6 and a quarter by 12 and a half inches (15.9 cm by 31.8 cm).

I think I'm going to name owls Otus from now on (though their name in the other official language, le Petit-duc des montagnes kind of rocks too).

scan of Screen-Owl linocut

Screech-Owl print & block

Friday, February 4, 2011

Charting a Course

Mercator Earlier this week, Ulixis, my colleague on the Mad Scientists of Etsy Street Team, featured my Mercator block print on her blog, and then cross-posted it to the Mad Scientists of Etsy blog (which, you know, you should follow, cause it's awesome). Then this morning, 'Etsy Finds' the daily shopping guide which one can receive via email from Etsy (or view here) featured my Mercator in a sailing and exploring themed (how apt is that?) missive, under the section "Charting a Course"! The print sold before I was even able to open my email, as some buyers are clearly swifter than I.

So, I am going to say that so far I like the Year of the Rabbit, what with one art show and five prints and one pillow sold already. In my experience, if you are an etsy seller and wonder about whether you might want to join a team, I would say yes! Also, I'm thinking that my on-going shop makeover project is going well.

Did I mention I love my new scanner?

Everything you wanted to know about Mercator, but were afraid to ask...
Gerardus Mercator was a 16th century Flemish cartographer. I would say "The" cartographer, except Flanders seemed to be overrun with first rate cartographers in the 16th century (Gemma Frisius, Abraham Ortelius... stiff competition), perhaps because mapping their territory was extremely challenging, what with the floods and the succeeding armies... I don't even know how they managed to keep track of whether they were (bizarrely) part of Spain, or the Holy Roman Empire or what. Mercator himself had to be on the ball as his tendencies ran to the Protestant end of the spectrum.

What made Mercator a contender for "The" cartographer, was in fact his abilities as a mathematician -and like those of us scientists who feel compelled also to create art he was wasn't hindered by his immense ability as an engraver. He produced beautiful world maps (a version of which is depicted in this print), globes, but his name has gone down in history for the Mercator Projection. The Mercator projection is a cylindrical map projection which became the standard map projection for nautical purposes because of its ability to represent lines of constant course, known as rhumb lines or loxodromes, as straight segments. While the linear scale is constant in all directions around any point, thus preserving the angles and the shapes of small objects (which makes the projection conformal), the Mercator projection distorts the size and shape of large objects, as the scale increases from the Equator to the poles, where it becomes infinite.

The Mercator projection will be quite familiar to you. It is generally used as a sort of 'default' projection, even today. If you are Canadian, like me, you might be lead to over-estimate the size of the arctic archipelago and underestimate the immensity of the African continent, due to the ubiquity of this projection. However, his achievement was fundamental to the explosion in exploration that came after his paradigm breaking world maps.

When the Mad Scientists of Etsy chose CARTOGRAPHY as our theme for November, 2008, I knew, as an earth scientist, (especially a marine geophysicist, used to spending quality time with nautical charts), a lover of the history of science and as a printmaker, that Mercator was the apt choice.

This is a two-colour (two block) lino block print. It is one of a first edition of only 6 prints. I carved two blocks in reverse; one representing his world map of 1595 in green and the second based on contemporary portraits in black, printed on Japanese washi paper 10" by 10.8" (25.5 cm by 27.5 cm). The edition is variable and each print is unique in its own way.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!

Tu-z: The Rabbit 4th in Chinese Zodiac

Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit!

If you're in Toronto, you should join me at the Year of the Rabbit International Print Exhibit Opening at PROOF Gallery, in the Distillery District this evening!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Groundhog Day!

High Five Since I have yet to make any sort of groundhog art, I hope you will accept this other urban animal greetings instead. Actually, I keep envisioning a comic with three squares. In the first square there is a groundhog which comes out in broad daylight and sees no shadow with the legend 'sees no shadow, winter is over!' In the second square is an intimidated groundhog running from its shadow and the legend 'sees shadow: 6 more weeks of winter.' In the third panel is frozen mound of of vaguely groundhog-shaped snow with the legend 'see no groundhog: ....'

So yes, we have snow, but really, it strikes me as neither disasterous, nor monstrous, nor surprising, but I guess it gives the media an excuse for melodrama. I hope you are having a snow day, should you be in the wake of this storm, and that all the melodrama is on your television, not in your life.