Etching and Cross-Hatching

Recently I took a weekend-long etching/intaglio workshop at NSCAD. I made this garlic print:

I love etching! I loved how meditative it was to scrape lines onto a plate. I loved learning about cross-hatching. I loved the process of sketch to plate to acid bath to cleaning to inking to wiping to printing to cleaning, etc. etc. I've been trying to get that old-fashioned, early 20th century feeling in my illustrations as I try to figure out how to illustrate my kids' books. So now I've tried a few more pen and ink cross-hatched drawings. They don't turn out as well as actually etching, but I'm slowly getting the hang of it. Below, some of my drawings.








The Berth House

In response to Bookninja's 're-masculate' contest, the goal of which was to 'masculine-ize' a chick lit. title, behold, The Berth House, by Andi McKay.

Here's the synopsis: Donahue “Huey” Rare is the first boy in five generations of Scot’s Bay, Nova Scotia Rares to reject the family carpentry business and head to the high seas, despite the family sea curse. In his youth, Huey apprentices with Mr. Comeau (“Mr. C”), a salty Acadian sea captain infamous for his sea chanties and mean-spirited blind parrot, Chico. After a decade at sea fighting pirates, Germans and sea monsters, Huey returns to Scot’s Bay with his crew of misfit sailors to prove his worth, winning the love of the village hooker, Ruby. When a harrowing fire set by a new American carpenter threatens the berth house his father and brothers built, only Huey can save the village. But will he?

(note #1: I'm posting this here because, what happened to this contest? Seems they got a bit of press in The Guardian and that was that. Away into the ether)

(note #2: You can read the ridiculous synopsis to the extremely ridiculous original Birth House, which has one of the worst, most sexist covers ever, here)

My Minolta X-570

Sometimes, when I remember, I shoot pictures on film. I have an old Minolta X-570 (circa 1983, when they were first made) which I got in Toronto at Henry’s around 1999/2000. I say “when I remember” ‘cause it’s so much easier—and cheaper—to grab my digital camera or iPhone. I used to use the Minolta a lot—it was my primary camera—and then I got my first digital camera (a Canon PowerShot SD1000 Elph), and, just like that, I was taking digital photos and my Minolta started collecting dust. I probably would have kept taking photos on film if practically every film lab hadn’t shut down at roughly the same time. That was around 2006, when this photo was taken on my way to the St. Peter’s Abbey writing retreat, in Saskatchewan. I like to call this photo "Self Portrait with Tampon Dispenser." :)

Julien’s a photographer, so when we started dating, I showed him my Minolta and said it wasn’t working properly. He took a look at it, and it turns out I had the batteries in it backwards. Lol! Once he got it working, I started using it again. I even took the camera on our first date, up to Ingonish Beach.

I still haven’t gotten those Ingonish Beach photos developed, but, that’s ok. It was a bit of an adjustment, at first, storing the film in the fridge or freezer to wait till I had the money or found a place to develop the film. I finally did find a place—the Antigonish Five to a Dollar store. Turns out they have one of the last film labs left in Nova Scotia. I brought them 6 rolls of my film last spring and then Julien scanned them. And I finally got around to posting a few of the photos on a film photo page.

Taking film and waiting to develop it is a great way to practice patience. Even years ago, when I lived in Toronto, I could get a spent roll of film developed within an hour. Film, just ten years ago, was much more immediate. And digital, well, it’s faster than saying “instant.” What a treat it is to finally see film I shot two or more years ago. When everything now is fast, film is such a lovely and rewarding way to slow down.

Don’t get me wrong: I love digital, and I love Instagram. But I forgot how gorgeous film is—the depth of field, the painterly colours—even looking at a film photo brings you back to the place it was taken so much more than digital. You really sink into the photo. I just gotta start remembering to take my Minolta with me whenever I go for a walk.

Polar Opposites

At Berton House last winter, Julien shot timelapses of the Northern Lights from the kitchen window. Back home in Cape Breton, we decided to take those timelapses, add a soundscape, and pitch it to Lumière, Sydney's art-at-night-festival. The result was Polar Opposites, a multimedia video installation we projected onto the side of the Royal Hotel in downtown Sydney.

Polar Opposites has been making the rounds--it was part of New Glasgow's Art at Night Festival, as well as Dawson's City's (s)hiver. The photos, below, were taken by Blair Douglas during this year's (s)hiver. The video was projected onto the front of Bill Big's Blacksmith Shop.

Collaborating with Julien on Polar Opposites, in part, inspired me to write my essay, "Permaculture on the Permafrost," which is forthcoming now available from Canadian Notes and Queries. The essay is about a bunch of things, but, particularly, the benefits of arts collaborations and building communities using permaculture design techniques.

As part of Lumière, Julien and I were asked to give a talk about art and community. So we talked about how Polar Opposites came about, and I highlighted some points from my CNQ essay. The talk is now on YouTube (and embedded, below).

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