I suppose I should look on the bright side and be happy that I finished another wood engraving. Decades ago I didn't have a second thought about completing an edition and moving on to the next one. Now it seems like a major milestone.
I like to substitute words that sound alike. If I wasn't doing that here I would have titled this post, CATCH-UP. As I mentioned a while back, things have really slowed down with me. They've slowed in many ways and in many areas. But I won't bore you with all of that. I'll bore you with what's been going on in the studio.
Anyway, moving on, I've forgotten to keep this Blogger thing going and I neglected to bring you up to date on my latest edition. I ran an edition of a new member of the Aliens Of Planet Earth. This one is an Octopus that I found interesting, partly because of the name it has been given. It's called the Dumbo Octopus. I suppose the fins on the sides of the bulbous body and the manner in which this octopus tucks in its tentacles makes it resemble the Disney cartoon character, Dumbo. So, it was named the Dumbo Octopus.
The edition was run in early June and then I moved on to try to keep the routine of working in the studio going. I fiddled around with the sketchbook and tried to focus on something that might be developed into an idea that would become visual. Remember catch-up - ketchup? Well, that sound similarity phenomenon became my next obsession and that's where I'm headed next (if I can pull it off visually). The secret is not letting my aging carcass take over. All it wants to do is veg. D'you know what "veg" means?
I try to avoid bragging. I'm not comfortable with bragging. But I couldn't help sharing this with whomever reads this blog. So I'm not bragging, I'm sharing.
I received an e-mail from Porcupine's Quill Press the other day, informing me that my recent book they published, See What I'm Saying?, just received an award. The eLit Book Awards has awarded the book a bronze award in the humour category.
I've never heard of eLit Book Awards, so when I went on the website the publisher sent me, all I learned was that they are a digital publishing award organization. I couldn't tell where they are located, but I suppose if they are concentrating on "e" publications, they don't need a location. This has me curious because See What I'm Saying? was published as a real book, with real paper pages and cover. Oh well, I'm just pleased and proud that the book was recognized and awarded.
Work in the studio has slowed down in recent months. All the symptoms of aging: the arthritis pain, memory, mobility etc. are slowly increasing. So I'm celebrating that I finally finished a new wood engraving, ran the edition, and this morning was able to remember how to put it up on my website. If you want to see that page, it's here: http://www.telusplanet.net/public/jimwest/bergamasco.html
During the process of running the edition there is a segment of the process I recognized now as risky. I hadn't given it any thought before. I print on an old proofing press. As each piece of paper is cranked through the press and is taken off the roller, it must be placed where the ink doesn't get touched. The ink takes a couple of days to completely dry. Back when the studio was built I installed two wires up near the ceiling (ten foot ceiling as I recall) that run from one wall to the other. They are up that high so that, if I'm printing an edition on large paper I can walk beneath them without disturbing them. During the process of printing the edition I take each print individually over to the wire, climb a ladder, and clip it to one of the many clips I've installed on the wires. When I went up the ladder the other day, and stretched (not safe to step on the top two steps of the ladder) to reach the first clip the arthritis pain in my back was excruciating. That caused me to wobble on the ladder.
I made it up and down the ladder for about half the edition, then decided I better spread the rest of them out on the work table. I have now decided to take the wires down (or, to have someone younger take them down for me). I think I have a drying system figured out that won't require height.
Introducing the latest Alien of Planet Earth: Bergamasco Shepherd
"They" say that, in old age, there is a "second childhood". I think I've found the proof that statement is true. I seem to be obsessed with colouring books in my old age. Not with colouring them but with making them. I can't seem to leave it alone, but maybe it's my obsession with cliches, puns and humorous sayings, because these all contain that common element. Here are a few more:
When I think I understand where I'm headed (for instance, another idea for a wood engraving), I suddenly find myself headed in a direction I would never have dreamed. It has been a period, lately, besot with slumps and dead-ends. Now suddenly I am beginning to find my concentration going in a direction I thought was temporary and incidental. Carol mentioned the other day that she had enjoyed colouring a colouring book that her activity group in the facility were involved with. She had enjoyed this when she was in a unit of the hospital a few years ago and I had made some line drawings for her then, which she coloured very well. She had enjoyed colouring them then, so I thought I would make some more. The more I thought about what to make, the more focussed I found myself and I thought, "This is a good thing!"
But instead of drawing line drawings of animals, birds or flowers, I decided to look through my collection of sayings to print on the computer and include some kind of related patterns or images in line as well. Here are some starters.
I just received word from Porcupine's Quill that "See What I'm Saying?" has been printed and is now available. There have been some delays and now I'm happy that it's available. Let me know what you think.
It surprises me, the way my mind wanders and suddenly I am confronted with a series of ideas that become an obsession and I'm back on the track, motivated to pursue images that are linked. My fascination with all the words and phrases in the English language, that I interpreted visually, got me on a track that led me to the series I called "See What I'm Saying?". I started the first wood engraving of that series in 2009 while going back and forth between images of that theme, and others, such as "Aliens of Planet Earth", and illustrating some books and creating a series of greeting cards. Recently my usual pace of moving from one wood engraving to another has slowed considerably. There have been some problems and stresses that have been the cause, as well as the usual component of aging. Then this past July, when I had another slump and seemed to lack the motivation to search out the next theme (I tend to work in themes), I caught myself thinking about eyes. Eyes for looking. Eyes for watching. Eyes for spying. People watching animals. Animals watching people. And there I was, looking at another theme. Or was I?
As often happens I come up with a title of a print before I start working on an image. I thought of the phrase "I see you", and because I was still probably thinking along the "See What I'm Saying" track, I thought of: "Eye See You". Hey! a primate watching a human! That was it, and I was back in the saddle again. From that, a month or so later I started "Eye See You Too", which could (conventionally) be titled, I See You #2. There I was, playing the "See What I'm Saying?" game. If you're not confused by now, I guess I've failed.
After about three months of trying this and trying that, I was finally able to push through. The edition of another Alien of Planet Earth was printed. It was an image that I was constantly unhappy with and wasn't confident that it was going to work. Over the months, as I was engraving, proofing, studying the results and engraving more, I didn't feel it was working. Then yesterday, around midday I inked up the press and pulled another proof to see the
results. Bingo! It was a weird feeling to be looking at something that I had
had doubts about after all the pervious proofs and suddenly like it. I had made some radical changes. It was as
if it was someone else’s and I had never seen it before! I decided to go ahead
and run the edition. Of course, time will tell, but it satisfied me in that moment, and that's all I care about. If you're interested, it's on the website: http://www.telusplanet.net/public/jimwest/rhinobeetle.html
Well, I've decided that there hasn't been a hiatus, as I thought. I'm simply "acting my age" by slowing down in the ol' rockin' chair. Making a Mountain of a Molehill took five months to complete, then five days after the edition was run, I started some sketches for an idea that Darrel Morrow suggested. We were discussing the legal term,"statute of limitations". If the third t in "statute" is not emphasized, most people, hearing the term for the first time, would think the word was "statue". That was the beginning of Statue of Limitations and about two and a half months later (a few days ago) I finished printing that edition. Here it is. I've added it to my website, with a commentary.
Now, something has just happened that I don't believe has happened to me before. I was going back and looking at Making a Mountain of a Molehill a few minutes ago and suddenly "saw" another way to "say" the same thing. I'm anxious to try it, but I'm afraid it's not going to be different enough. But I'm afraid if I don't try it out, it'll nag me. Maybe this is all part of these "senior moments" "they" keep talking about.
The studio work routine I've been using for decades continues to be on "pause" mode. Carol's problems with dementia reached a point where the hospital was no longer an answer to solving her problem and it was necessary to move her to a facility with permanent and proper care. An available facility was found south of Red Deer and our sons Kurt and Gregg moved some items of furniture and clothing there and Carol is now there. When space is available in a Red Deer facility she will be moved again. The processes involved to make this happen are, of course, going to be taking priority over any work in the studio.
Meanwhile, through all this, last October the Society of Wood Engravers put out a challenge for members to enter a 'Seasons Project". I volunteered to participate in the "Summer" portion of the project. I was then struggling to stay focused on an idea in my "See What I'm Saying?" series. The sketches I had begun seemed like they might fit the "Summer" theme (if a stretch of interpretation was allowed, and it was). A few days ago I ran the edition of "Making a Mountain of a Molehill".
The word hiatus is defined as a pause or a gap in a sequence, series, or process. Well, my life has contained a hiatus for the past four months, at least in the studio. I finished running the edition of the wood engraving Carpe Diem at the end of July. In mid July Carol had to return to the hospital and she has been there since then. I've gone through a period of ups and downs and concerns that have kept me from focusing on work in the studio. Each time I try, I find my concentration is short-lived. But I did manage to start a series of sketches for another wood engraving in the Aliens of Planet Earth series in September. Eventually, after picking it up and setting it aside over and over again, I selected a sketch that I picked to draw on a new block. The drawing on the block went through numerous changes as well, until I finally began to engrave the block about three weeks ago.
Today (nearly three months after the first sketch) I decided it was time for the first proof of the block, to see what it looked like. It's a good feeling to have finally gotten back into the studio to work. Carol is safe and receiving good care and now I have got a focus that is keeping me from becoming a blobfish (the first member of the Aliens of Planet Earth series).
"So, Anyway" (as John Cleese would say... that's a very good book of his, by the way) I wanted to explain my hiatus and hibernation and to share Treehopper with you.
Every now and then, when going through the process of creating something, the final decision is not always final. In Carpe Diem that was the case. When I was satisfied with the latest proof and I made the decision to stop engraving, I ran the edition, let the prints dry, signed them and filed them away. I was tearing up the proofs and as I looked at the last one, on which I based my decision to stop engraving, I realized there was something that was bothering me. I was NOT finished with the print after all.
Here is a cropped scan of the area that bothered me. I had hoped to create a sense of the white area of the paper around the image flowing into the arm and flowing into the composition. But by showing an abrupt change between the arm above the water and below the water, that wasn't working.
I hadn't realized how important that issue was to me. So I decided to make the changes in the block and run the edition again.
Here's a cropped scan of the area after I made the changes in the block and opened up the area so the white had a better chance of flowing into the composition.
This brings up the issue of what happens to the 34 prints in the edition that I now don't like. Thankfully this hasn't happened to me before. There is always a need for paper to run proofs upon and the back side of proofs or, in this case on the back side of an edition is the answer for proofing paper. The paper I use is expensive and I try not to waste it.
Now the issue of "limited edition" comes up. What happens to the edition that I printed first? Well, I have made an X across each print in that edition with a permanent marker and I will use the edition as proofing paper by printing future proofs on the back side of these, then tear them up and send them to recycling.
On my previous post I mentioned that the block had a subtle cancellation, in preparation to sending the block on to the Hamilton Wood Type Museum. Can you see the "cancellation" change up there in the crop of the revised area by comparing the "before" with the "after"? I will now find another area to create a subtle cancellation in the block.
In conclusion, I find that (for me) one of the most difficult moments in the process of creating a print or drawing is making the decision of when to leave it alone and quit.
"Carpe Diem" (seize the day) is the title of my latest wood engraving, and it's part of the "See What I'm Saying?" series. The phrase, when first heard by one (such as myself) who has not studied Latin or the classics, sounds like it has something to do with carp. The image was engraved on a maple block, supplied by the Wood Engravers Network for a project titled "Seize the Carp" to benefit the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers Wisconsin. Two Rivers has a yearly carp festival and participating members of SWE were asked to include a carp in their image. As you can see, the block I was sent is a section of a maple end-grain slab that includes the edge of the slice of the log, so I incorporated that in the image.
The block will be sent to the museum for their collection and use. A minor alteration was created in the block, after this edition was completed; meant as a subtle cancellation of this edition.
Carol and I returned from a road trip to the U.S. last Saturday afternoon. It took us three days to drive from Greeley Colorado to Red Deer Alberta. (That included an hour wait in line to get back across the Canadian border! Maybe there really ARE Americans wanting to escape the thought of "The Donald" as president.)
The first goal of the road trip was Missoula Montana where the Wood Engravers Network traveling exhibition was scheduled and we wanted to attend the opening and to visit our friends Jim and Julia Todd who live there. Jim is a superb wood engraver. He and I each have a wood engraving in the exhibition. The exhibition was held at one of the galleries at the University of Montana and I was very impressed with the presentation and quality of work chosen for the exhibition. There were wood engravings from members all over North America and Great Britain (maybe Europe too, but I can't remember. I'm awaiting the arrival of my copy of the exhibition catalogue).
Carol, Julia, Jim and I enjoyed music in the park.
After a few more days enjoying the company of Jim and Julia, we headed south-east to visit some other very dear friends, Bill Starke and Judy Perry in Greeley. Bill is a former student of mine from many decades ago, when I taught at Metropolitan State College in Denver (now a university). Bill is now a very successful sculptor and they hosted us for a few days, during which I had my first experience getting in and out of a kayak with Bill's help (not an easy task for an old codger with arthritic joints).
ODDBALLS was recognized at the Independent Publisher's Book Awards, held at the Willis Tower in Chicago. They awarded the book a bronze medal in the Popular Culture category. Porcupine's Quill Publishers picked up my bronze medal and I just received it yesterday. It's a great honour... and heavy.
For those of you living, or visiting, in British Columbia, there's a new red ale brewed by Tin Whistle Brewery in Pentiction. I've given them permission to use my wood engraving portrait of Bill Miner for their new Hands Up! red ale and I recommend it. It's a tasty brew.
It's me being a braggart again.
Some more good news: I just heard that the Porcupine's Quill paperback edition of Oddballs received a bronze award at the Independent Publishers Book Awards, in the Popular Culture category.
Maybe Independent Publishers Book Awards is the same thing as the Indiefab Award nomination I heard about a while ago. I don't know.
The con-artists are back! This time in the name of Daniel Ming. Daniel's colleagues were Debbie From NewYork, Stan From California and Jon From Norway (all of them had From as their middle names).
This is the e-mail I received from Daniel Ming:
I hope this mail meets you well, Am mailing to place order
with your company and will like to know if it is possible for you to
ship orders to South America.If shipment is possible,kindly get back
to me with your catalog or price list were i can chose the item
needed to be shipped including Delivery address.
Also you will be referred to my shipper who handles all my
shipment, and once I receive the quote for the order and the shipment
then I will commence on the payment. Kindly get back to me if this
is acceptable and let me know the type of card you accept or i can make
payment with Paypal too but credit card is more preferable to me.
Looking forward to do business with you.
I find it odd, as in the other con-artists' attempts, that Daniel doesn't make any reference as to what he's shopping for. Here is my response:
Good morning Daniel, Yes, I can ship orders to South America, or any other continent. The best method for selecting which items you would like to order would be for you to look on my website, which I’m sure you would have seen, to obtain my e-mail address. The price of each item is listed on the website in Canadian funds and payment (as the website indicates) is made in Canadian, US, British or Euros only. When I know which items you want I can tell you what the amount in one of those denominations would be, including the packaging (you said you have your own shipper so you would pay your shipper for the shipping). I’m presuming your shipper would pick up the goods from me. There is something I don’t understand though. If you have a shipper of your own, why would you need to know if I ship orders to South America?
So, first you tell me which items you want and the denomination you will be paying with and I will let you know the total, including packaging. Next, you will make the payment, through PayPal, and I will await notice that your funds are in my account, before releasing the order to your shipper.
If that works for you, we can do business. All the best
I'm surprised that Daniel listed PayPal and credit card as his payment options. His other colleagues were going to send a cheque, and of course that cheque would be for an amount above the total. Then I would be asked to cash it and send him the difference (that's the con).
The dictionary defines braggart as "A loud arrogant boaster."
At the risk of being called a braggart, I want to share some good news I received a few days ago from Porcupine's Quill, the publisher of the trade edition of my book, ODDBALLS.
The message said that ODDBALLS is a finalist in the Foreward Magazine IndieFab Book of the Year Awards, in the Popular Culture (Adult Nonfiction) category. It included this link to a page on the website: https://indiefab.forewordreviews.com/books/oddballs/
Now, it's a matter of waiting to see what the judges decide, but in the meantime I feel very honoured and humbled that the book has attracted the kind of attention to have placed it in the list of the finalists.
Here are a few more of the prints and drawings of mine that contain subliminal images (some of them going back quite a few years). Some of the titles hint at the hidden images and some of the hidden images aren't very hidden. Remember, you can click on an image to see larger versions:
Bonnie Ben Lomond wood engraving
Crocky Rocky lithograph
Crocky Rocky II lithograph
Talking to a Brick Wall wood engraving
Mouthparts of a Spanish Fly wood engraving
Pig Headed wood engraving
Rhino wood engraving
Stonefaced wood engraving
Hope you had fun looking for them. Let me know if there are any you can't find.
I've been fascinated with subliminal images for decades. I enjoy looking for them in photographs contained in printed advertising. I saw a page on line today that discussed a "brain teaser" drawing in which you were to try to find images of Indian leaders, including Ghandi, in a drawing of a tree. That reminded me of drawings I did to illustrate Jason Brink's book Fly on the Wall, published by ECW press in 2008. When the drawings were submitted to the publisher there was never a response from the editor regarding the hidden images and there has never been any response (that I'm aware of) from any reader. That's a good thing, because I didn't want them to be readily noticed. I've decided to "come clean" and to reveal that there are subliminal images in some (not all) of the drawings in Fly on the Wall, as well as other drawings and prints I've done.
So, here is the "brain teaser" (there are ten leaders) that motivated me to admit my subliminal images and you can easily see which of my drawings this "teaser" reminded me of:
A few of the pen and ink drawings for Fly on the Wall that contain subliminal images are below (You can click on individuals to see a larger image). But, before you include an image of a fly among the subliminal images you find, I need to explain that the fly is the subject of each of the stories in the book and I hid that fly in some of the drawings as a teaser to keep people looking. But there were other images hidden as well. Some were related to the particular story.