Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I had one final screenprinting class yesterday, so I thought, since I had only 3 hours of time, to make some monoprints. This is not a method I've used before. The word 'monoprint' can be applied to unique prints made with a variety of printmaking methods (so long as there are not multiples). In this instance, I mean screenprints made by applying a pigment directly to the screen and then lifting and disolving it and printing with the squeegee as if one were printing with ink. You can do this with, say, silk paints and screenprinting medium, or even wallpaper paste. Any sort of decent medium which can disolve water-soluble pigments, and has good printing properties (like viscosity - not too thin or too gloopy) will work. I printed all of the following on heavy weight paper with a deckle edge (moreorless 10 inches by 14 inches). I experimented with the silk paints:


There are white areas where the pigment was too thick, and actually blocked the screen - but I like them.Also, you can see the mesh, which is interesting to me. I also tried paper stencils (snowflakes) combined with a silk paint + wallpaper paste monoprint:

snowflake-monoprint583Then, I tried the crayons (also with cut-paper snowflake stencils). My first attempt wasn't quite what I intended (but still sort of pretty I think). The instructor pointed out that there was still pigment on the screen, and with more medium and pressure (a recurring problem for me, I feel like a weakling) that I might be able to get another print. He gave it a try and got much better results:


Lastly, I drew a discomedusa jellyfish directly onto the screen with colour pencils and crayons. This proved harder than expected. The screen itself is not an ideal medium for drawing. The mesh tends to hinder smooth, curved lines (which are sort of necessary, at least if you are me, and you are attempting to draw the least rectilinear animal in the world). Here's my first attempt, which is pale, but appeals to me:


Again, there are places where the pigment blocked the mesh, but I think it works. There is white, often, within water, and I think it helps give a sense of movement. Here's the no-nonsense instructor's 2nd attempt:


which shows hom much more can be transferred with more strength and experience. I also like the surviving snowflake stencils. The ones made from strong Japanese kozo paper survived:

I feel I should do something with the screenprinted snowflakes, but I'm not sure what.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shang Yang, the Bird that Makes the Rain

Shang Yang the Bird that Makes the Rain

This linocut shows how I imagine Shang Yang, 'The Bird that Makes the Rain'. I found a description of this marvellous creature in Jorge Luis Borges' (and poor, forgotten Margarita Guerrero's) 'The Book of Imaginary Beings'. It explains that Chinese farmers called upon Shang Yang to bring the rain:

It had but a single leg; in ancient times children would hop on one leg, wrinkle their foreheads, and shout, "It will soon rain, for Shang Yang is frolicking in the yard!" It was said that the bird drank water from the rivers and dropped it on the land.

In ancient times, a wise man domesticated this fowl, and he would walk about with it on upon his sleeve. Historians say that one day the Shang Yang, flapping its wings and hoping on its one leg, passed before the throne of Prince Ch'i, who, alarmed, send one of his ministers to the court of Lu, to consult with Confucius about the event. Confucius predicted that the Shang Yang would cause floods in the principality and in the lands nearby, and he advised that dikes and canals be built. The prince followed Confucius' advice, and thereby avoided great disasters.

Shang Yang the Bird that Makes the Raindetail

Interesting, isn't it, that even the lengend explains that water rose from rivers, to the sky, to produce rain, as it does according to more modern understanding of the water cycle. Apart from hopping about on his single leg, and bringing the rain, Borges provides little clue as to Shang Yang's appearance, so I was free to imagine this strange creature myself. RJH says he looks like a cross between a stork and a turkey; perhaps he's right. I wanted to make sure the single leg looked sturdy; it is much to thick for a stork, with a solid knee and strong thigh for more springy and comical bouncing. I couldn't resist the the stylized, Chinese Buddhist sort of swirling cloud.

Shang Yang is printed in Payne's gray, a bluish, dark gray like rain, on Japanese kozo, or mulberry paper. Each sheet is 6 inches by 12.5 inches (15.2 cm by 31.8 cm). There are 12 prints in this edition.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Imaginary Antarctic

One of the most marvellous things I've seen are Pacific harbour seals at night, surfacing at night in water rich with bioluminescent bacteria. They glow in the dark! This inspired this print. I imagined glow-in-the-dark seals, a Pygmy Right Whale, a mysteriously forming submarine miniature galaxy, between two icebergs, below a starry sky and the aurora australis. This is one of a (variable) edition of 20 screenprints (22.5 cm by 33 cm/8.6 inches by 13 inches). The south polar sky does vary from print to print. The seals, stars (in the sky and the sea) and the aurora are all printed in glow-in-the-dark ink. It's very hard to take a photo in the dark... but they really do glow!

In screenprint class, we took some of the prints into the dark room to have a better look. I don't know how to capture this in a photo... you'll have to take my word for it.

glow in the dark seal screenprintAntarctic558

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dinosaurs and Games


This is my mini linocut of a Scutosaurus dinosaur. The block is 10 cm by 10 cm (3.9 inches by 3.9 inches), inked à la poupée (i.e. one block inked in more than one colour, in tiny regions, like as by a little doll our 'poupée'). It is printed on 18 cm by 18 cm (7.1 inch by 7.1 inch) kozo (or mulberry) Japanese washi paper. There are 9 prints in the edition.

Scutosaurus ("Shield Reptile") was a genus of armor-covered pareiasaur that lived around 252-248 million years ago, at the end of the Permian era. The pareiasaurs had massive, rounded bodies and used their sawlike teeth for chewing foliage. Despite its size (2.5 m or 8 feet long), Scutoraurus was a vegetarian.


I don't know about you, but I have a tennis freak on my gift list.* The slogan 'tennis starts with love' might be a bit corny but I like the three tennis balls as an ellipsis. It is printed on Japanese kozo, or mulberry paper 14 cm by 23 cm (5.5 inches by 9 inches).

*She's far better at tennis than technology (for instance she called today to ask me to explain how to switch the TV to DVD, again), so I'm pretty sure I can place this on my blog without revealing anything to her.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Year of the Dragon Print Show

Long: The Dragon, Limited Edition Lino

This weekend, we visited PROOF Gallery to drop off my 'Long: the Dragon' linocuts for the 11th International Print Exhibition and ExchangeCelebrating The Chinese New Year Year of the DRAGON 2012. Follow the link to see all the submitted prints as the arrive (or the submission call if you're a printmaker). I'll let you know about exhibition details in January. My print and prints from around the world will be displayed at PROOF Gallery (in the Distillery District, Toronto), OCADU in Toronto, Ottawa School of Art and the Muskoka Art Place Gallery. You can also find it here and a variation on the theme here. I've enjoyed participating in their Year of the Tiger and Year of the Rabbit shows previously. I love seeing all the different takes on the theme. Since I created my Chinese Zodiac Series before becoming involved in these exhibits, my take is pretty literal, but some artists are much less literal (like the NSFW takes on 'rabbit' or 'bunny' last year). I wonder what they'll come up with this year?

In other things from secret minouette places news, I re-divided my shop. Previously, I had the 'Linocut Chinese Zodiac', 'Scientist Portraits' and a general 'Printmaking' categories. I'm trying a scheme more like the one in my head: 'Linocut Chinese Zodiac', 'Science and Scientists', 'Natural History Prints' and 'UnNatural History'. Does that make sense to you? I want flora and fauna in 'Natural History' and you know, harpies and unicorns in 'UnNatural History' (along with the odd inanimate human-made object).

minouette mail


I'm trying something new for anyone who is interested in my prints and my shop. If you are interested there's a totally opt-in/unsubscribe at any time mailing list sign up here. I subscribe to a few artist's mailing lists, and I like them, so I thought I might try it myself.

Also, you can just click on the 'News from secret minouette places' tab above. That works too.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reading is sexy XLVII

(image by Mladen Penev)
Goodness. From reading this blog, you would think that I have given up on the pastime of reading. I haven't posted a thing since August. Usually, I aim for 50 and hit about 40 books in a year. This year, I'm nowhere near that. Though, on the other hand, I've read a couple of epic books, which probably should count for at least three normal books (and in fact, one of them does, in the original Japanese). The trouble though, with not posting promptly, is that it is less fresh in my mind. In fact, I might omit an entire book! Ah well...

17. Too much happiness by Alice Munro. This is an excellent collection of short stories and the titular novella. (It won the 2009 Man Booker International Prize). I sought it out because I am interested in Sophie Kovaleskaya (there are various spellings and means of transliterating from Cyrillic characters, Со́фья Васи́льевна Ковале́вская) the nineteenth century master of mathematics and literature, and first female university professor in Northern Europe. Like the other (fictional) characters in these stories, her real life and marriage was complex, and she sought love in the wrong places. The stories have stayed with me; the people seem real, with faults and virtues, interacting in ways they don't foresee any more than the reader would. Several stories are overshadowed by violence, or the threat thereof. The collection is capped with the novella based on the facts of Kovaleskaya's turbulent life (her nursery wallpapered with her father's old calculus notes, her introduction to nihilism, her initially sham marriage as a means to escape Russia and pursue a higher eduction, her fight to study mathematics and her relationship with her thesis supervisor Karl Weierstrass, her return to Russia, the birth of her daughter, the complexity and end of her marriage, her writing, her life and professorship in Sweden, her lover, her premature death) and her ironic last words, 'Too much happiness.' Beautifully crafted and plotted stories.

18. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. I managed to read another Pynchon novel, but this early one is a mere 126 pages. Though, he packs those pages with more life, conspiracy, insanity, radio DJs, dead millionaires, secret codes, illegal underground mail systems, engineer bars complete with Lissajous figures on an oscilloscope for a sign, dive motels, psychiatrists doling out LSD to housewives, skeletons, a teenage band called the Paranoids, clues in bloody Jacobean Revenge Plays, stamp collecting, and one sex scene of more slapstick hilarity than can be imagined without reading the book. Oedipa Maas gets more than she bargained for when she agrees to be the executor of her former lover's estate.

19. Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster. Well, if I can read one book with a complicated relationship to reality as we know it, why not two? Mr. Blank, an old man, awakes each day in a simple room: door, window, bed, desk and chair, but no memory or understanding of where he is or why he's there. He doesn't know if he is being imprisoned or is free to leave. A couple of people visit him, and he is given some clues to understand his fate. This odd, post-modern yet grounded, novel feels like one of the parables of José Saramago. It is a game between the author and the reader and the characters, but it is not only a game. It will be more rewarding if you read the New York Trilogy first.

20. The Woodcut Artist's Handbook by George A. Walker This was a thorough and enjoyable resource on 'everything you wanted to know about relief printing'. I've had it for some time and am glad I finally read it. Though intended to serve as a textbook or reference for printmaking students, it is very readable - especially since it includes a large collection of illustrations of relief prints from many artists, most of whom are also quoted describing their own techniques and preferences.* In terms of woodcut, he focuses on Western methods of engraving and woodblock printing, which is useful to me, in that I've only studied Japanese moku hanga methods. Though, that would be the one criticism; to be truly comprehensive, the book might have included more on Japanese and Chinese approaches to relief prints.

21. ghost by Alan Lightman. I've read a few of physicist-turned-novelist Alan Lightman's books and articles. I really enjoyed Einstein's Dreams, which was genuinely new and innovative. I have found some of his writing less to my taste. I wasn't sure what I was getting into with ghost. As it turns out, it's compelling and subtle novel about a man struggling to cope with something that defies characterization. David was always smart, but did not finish law school. He finds himself, divorced from a wife he adored and mystified how he lost his job at the bank. He takes a job at a mortuary, temporarily he thinks, because he needs a salary. There, in the resting room, he sees something. That is where his problems begin. How does he process what he's seen? What should he say or not say to the people in his life (his girlfriend, the people in his apartment building, his colleagues, and ultimately, the press and scientists who become embroiled in the story). This is a very earnest character-driven story, and the relationships between the characters are quite something. It's also a meditation on knowledge, the bounds of knowledge and superstition.

22. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami I am a huge fan of Muraki; I've read every book which has appeared in translation: novels, short stories, non-fiction, even anthologies he's edited and a book about him by Jay Rubin (one of his main two translators into English).

1Q84 did not disappoint me; this is the hard-boiled, fantastic, supernatural Japan full of high and low culture (from ad slogans, to under-appreciated jazz clarinettists, to fashion, to cooking and to Proust and Chekov) like only he can write. The title is a play on words. In Japanese, 9 is kyu, and the title alludes to Orwell's 1984 and the setting, a strange version of 1984 Japan, where our heroine Aomame (literally her family name means 'green peas') finds more and more things are not what they were. She begins the novel stuck in traffic on an elevated expressway, to the sounds of Janáček's Sinfonietta, and her cabbie informs her that she could only make her meeting if she takes the unusual move of abandoning the cab, and climbing down the emergency staircase (in her designer suit and heels). He warns however, that things may change, and that there is only one reality. Not really remarking on his words, she takes the staircase to her important meeting, and finds herself in a different version of 1984, which she dubs 1Q84. The police have new uniforms and guns, since breakfast. She was somehow unaware of a big news story: a shootout between a militant faction of an organic-farm-cum-religious cult Sakigake and the police. Most damning, the moon now has a new smaller, greenish companion moon. Aomame's story is interwoven with that of Tengo Kawana, mathematics cram school teacher and budding novelist. Tengo is convinced to take part in a shady scheme to act as ghostwriter, for a strange 17 year old girl Fuka-Eri's stranger story 'Air Chrysalis'. As the novel unfolds we learn of the bond between Tengo and Aomame, though separated for 20 years, they fell in love at 10, before either really knew what that meant. Though Tengo excels in school and sports, he has an unhappy boyhood with his undemonstrative, demanding father who drags him door to door while he collects fees for the national NHK TV broadcaster. Aomame is likewise dragged door-to-door in the hopes of using guilt to get better treatment, by her mother, a devout follower of the Society of Witnesses. They intuitively recognize their akinness as children they spend the rest of the novel increasing seeking each other out.

This is a dark novel for Murakami. Though previous novels included occasional graphic violence or the terrors of war, this novel focuses more attention on domestic and sexual violence and abuse. Aomame goes from fitness and self-defense instructor to becoming involved in vigilante assassinations. There are a series of suicides, and several murders in this novel. Murakami is also investigating the nature of the religious cult in this fiction (after his extensive non-fiction investigation of members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult following their notorious sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995). Fuka-Eri, it turns out, based her 'Air Chrysalis' on her childhood experiences in the Sakigake compound. This being a Murakami novel, involves a dead, blind goat, the Little People and an air chrysalis, doppelgangers/alter egos and running away. Soon in Aomame's parallel story, she too finds herself embroiled with Sakigake. The 925-page novel (published as 3 books in Japanese) drags the reader into the 1Q84 otherworld. It is compelling, exciting, moving, disturbing, sad and hopeful. I couldn't put it down.**

I certainly recommend this novel; it is quite amazing. However, if you haven't previously read Murakami, start with A Hard-Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World or A Wild Sheep-Chase. I do think a caveat is necessary; this is a darker and more violent novel than his others. It also features various depictions of sex and sexuality (though the violence is mercifully 'off-stage'). It isn't a book for young people. I read three articles in The New York Times about it. One was a wide-eyed sort of interview, marveling at the inventiveness, strangeness and scope of the novel. The other was a mixed review, which criticized the moral ambivalence (after all, sexual abuse isn't a metaphor) but conceded that this book made the reviewer think much more than most. I think in some ways the lack of moralism is a strength because it forces the reader to grapple with hard questions (what is the solution to domestic violence, is vigilante justice warranted, what can and cannot be allowed as part of religion, what is evil). So I enjoyed the novel more than she, but her criticism seems just. The third article is a poor review, but someone with little patience for loose ends is perhaps reading the wrong novelist. I think this book is amazing, but I do recognize that it won't appeal to all.

{Series so far: books read, more books read, books read, books read continues, more books read, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII,XIX, XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII XXIV, XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXX, XXXI, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXIV, XXXV, XXXVI, XXXVII, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XL,XLI, XLII, XLIII,

*Because the world is very small, amongst the artists is 's father.
**If you wondered where I was last week, my world was coping with an ear infection and 1Q84.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Io, myth and moon


In this three colour (2 screen) screenprint, I combined Io, both the nympth (in cow-form) of Ancient Greek myth, and Io the large, volcanous moon of Jupiter. I'm interested in exploring the role of myth and imagination in science, and specifically here, how astronomical naming has been traditionally based on mythology. To make this screenprint, I combined my pencil drawings of cow/nymph Io and cloud with a NASA photograph of Io, which I manipulated. The screenprint is one of an edition of 10, printed in yellow (with a hint of lime), magenta and purple, on white paper, 28 cm (11 inches) square.

The story of Io is a funny one; she is one of many nymphs who caught the roving eye of notorious womanizer Zeus. As told by Ovid, in 'Metamorphoses', Io rejected Zeus' nighttime advances until the oracles lead her father to drive her into the fields. There, Zeus covered her with clouds to try and hide her from his justly jealous wife Hera, who nonetheless decuded there was something suspicious going on. Zeus then upped the ante and turned himself into a cloud and Io into a beautiful, white heifer. Hera, used to such nonsense, was not fooled and demanded the white heifer as a gift, which Zeus could not refuse. Needless to say, Hera kept this cow far from her unfaithful spouse. So, I made Io a lovely beribboned, heifer with garlands of flowers, resting on a fluffy (if lascivious) cloud.

The story goes on with more shenanigans, including Hera sending a gadfly to harass poor Io, which apparently has something (etymologically at least) to do with the oestrous cycle... but I didn't want to tell the revenge part of the tale, and no one wants to think about menses, though a relentless, vengeful, stinging gadfly does make some sense to me. Anyhow...


Io, the Jovian satellite - or moon, is the innermost of the four Galilean moons which Galileo first observed and identified (January 8, 1610 ) in orbit around Jupiter.* Galileo knew the importance of a good patron and he named them the 'Medician stars'. Io and her sister Jovian moons were important to the history of science. Their observation made it clear to Galileo that it was not possible that everything circled the earth if these moons circle Jupiter and thus, Copernicus must be right. We now know that this lovely moon is the most geologically active place in our solar system, with its more than 400 volcanoes fueled by tidal heating, as it is violently pulled in multiple directions by the strong gravity of Jupiter and the other moons. It has been beautifully photographed by a series of satelittes sent from Earth.

The Mad Scientists of Etsy challenge for this month is 'metamorphosis'. I thought I would make something related to science but with a less expected connection to the theme of 'metamorphosis'. Rather than natural, biological metamorphosis**, this print brings the mythological, metamorphosed Io (of Ovid's 'Metamorphoses') and the moon Io unexpectedly together.

*The IAU Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature points out that Simon Marius may even have observed Io days prior, but he neither published nor necessarily realized what he saw. Nonetheless, he named the Jovian moons. (He believed in Tycho Brahe's system, which was mid-way between helio- and geo-centric, with planets circling the sun, which in turn circles the Earth. At the risk of putting a footnote on my footnote, I'll point out that this in not as illogical as it sounds, because Tycho was an excellent experimentalist and couldn't justify a heliocentric model with his data... because he couldn't observe stellar parallax. So, he was wrong, not because he avoided new ideas, but because he was conscientious and the data for parallax was not acheivable with the technology of the time. Go team Tycho! Never underestimate an honest experimentalist.).

**Butterflies may be the new pirates, but I just don't like larvae.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bohemian Hellhole Write Up

Cloud Chamber II (detail)- scan

The marvellously named blog Bohemian Hellhole wrote a piece about me, my art, and (my other blog) magpie&whiskeyjack. Have a look! The author Alice has, as you might imagine, a great sense of humour, and an eye for lovely things.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hallowe'en around here

halloween TOTORO!

I had a screenprinting class yesterday evening, so I wasn't around when the kids were out. I did see a couple of the very young ones. I liked the roughly 4-year-old Elvis, in 70's style white jumpsuit and large black wig with his or her father in traditional Mexican gear. I also got a few picks of some local decorations. I'm not sure what a giant totoro has to do with Hallowe'en, but I think that's a great item to have on one's porch.The photo is terrible, but that's a full 3D papier maché totoro, roughly 7 feet tall.

halloween 003

These people are always very dedicated to putting on a big show. I saw a lot of adults who were at least as excited as the children: arranging props, testing sound and previewing their smoke machines. The BBQ seemed to be big this year. One can encorporate props, like disembodied feet.

halloween 004