Wednesday 24 February 2016

Paper doll cut-outs!

Before I was old enough to go to school, I remember my Mum making me paper doll cut-outs to play with. Her little drawings were formulaic and I remember how she would start with 3 incomplete heart shapes which would eventually turn into a hairline, bathing suit top line and then a bathing suit bottom line (where the legs joined the torso). The paper doll had points for hands and feet and the legs were joined. But I was fascinated by how the end product was always a paper doll that she would cut out and then put under semi-transparent writing paper in order to trace different outfits over the figure, which could then be cut out. I loved these cut-outs and she only stopped making them for me when I was about 7 -- she told me I could draw better than her and could now make my own. Perhaps my Mum was just too busy (I am from a family of 10 kids, and I have 2 younger siblings) but I was quite confident also that I could make my own paper dolls. 

I most certainly did make my own over the years, but I also enjoyed ready made cut outs. Recently I was telling someone about my Ginny Tiu cut outs which I remember as my first store bought cut outs. I loved Ginny Tiu, a child piano prodigy from Hong Kong who made regular appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960s.

 At Xmas time in the 1960s one of my favourite surprise gifts was a miscellaneous box labelled "Time for Play" and it had a big clock on it. The contents included various games, puzzles and learning cards (such as how to tie your laces, how to tell time) but I remember more than once the box included Midge cut outs. Midge was Barbie's best friend, or at least she was in the 1960s!

One of my sisters and I made cut outs out of just about anything. We always looked forward to when the catalogues (for major dept stores in Toronto -- Eaton's and Simpson's) went out of date because then my Mum gave them to us to do with as we would. We would spend ages in our room cutting up the catalogues -- not only did we have a great population variety, but we could build flat dream houses. [With store bought paper dolls we always removed any tabs as we played with cut outs horizontally not vertically -- i.e., flat on the floor.]

I remember one time my sister and I cut up another sister's Rupert books. We actually didn't think she would mind, as we only cut out the characters that appeared in the page corners where you turned the page, Even though all the print for the stories was completely intact, we were still in big trouble...

So a few months ago I re-discovered what I now refer to as the "Grey Box". I was looking for some papers and opened a file box to be surprised that it was full of sketches, drawings and doodles which had somehow escaped the numerous purges and house moves I have made over the past almost 35 years. I was especially surprised to find two sets of cut outs that I made when I was around 17, occupying myself while I was sick in bed.

This young girl must have been my alter-ego as all the clothes are copies of the clothes I owned, except the green table-cloth dress which is based on a party dress belonging to one of my sisters. I say "alter-ego" because I considered the pose elegant while I thought I was clumsy and the figure is a blonde while I had dark brown curly hair...

These "medieval" cut outs were made around the same time. I think I was sick for a week (don't remember what was wrong with me!). I gave everyone names from Arthurian legend so Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall was the red haired man in green and blue, while the young fellow in the brown laced "leather" with puffy yellow sleeves and grey-green cape I named as Ambrosius (for Merlin's father according to writer Mary Stewart anyway!). I don't think I was naming people accurately for the legends, just the general character and names that I liked. I know at least several were just my imagination.

A few years ago there was a big Bowie "fashion" exhibition in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Although I didn't get there myself, my cousin in London did, and knowing how I was both a Bowie and a cut out fan sent me this memento.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Collage Cards

With Valentine's Day just a few days after my wedding anniversary, my husband  & I celebrate the days together. As artists, both of us have been making cards for years. Sometimes I go with the simple and obvious -- like this year's card of hearts:

Whereas last year, at this time, I was working on my large painting, Fractured City, so the cityscape / sunrise mostifs kept appearing in my collage cards.

Before xmas I had been working on some video footage of people jumping and skipping, for my current work research. So the white tights and black shoes of one of my niece subjects appeared in a few cards (several family birthdays around that time).

 Here are several collage cards from last year that again utilised the cityscape / sunrise imagery. I have a box of various colours and types of paper that I use for my ripped-paper collages. I am always saving or finding bits of paper that I think are interesting. The paper for the background "sunrise" in this birthday card was a pre-painted silver-leaf square on thin rice paper; I bought a stack of this paper in Toronto's Chinatown nearly 20 years ago for $1! The "lit window" squares are ripped from green tissue saved from a xmas cracker party hat. I think both the dark blue and purple might also be tissue from party hats too.

At Easter time last year I was being more literal with my portrayal of the sun as circular -- it made me think of an egg yolk. The sky is again that Chinese paper, but an "error" as it was not prepainted. The purple stripey paper and the purple "windows" are from bits of pseudo stained glass craft paper, leftovers from my daughter's childhood supplies. They are a tough paper and I like ripping them to create a natural white ripped edge.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Chinese New Year

Kung hei fat choi! We happily celebrate Chinese New Year every year. We used to live near Chinatown in Toronto so it was always a big deal in our neighbourhood. As usual, it is a family celebration with my Mum joining us. I always make a souvenir menu for her and this year, since our printer is out of commission, it was done by hand. I got a box of linoleum for xmas as I wanted to do some lino printing, and I have been sharing them. For this occasion, Year of the Fire Monkey, my husband (James Hayes) created an image based on a "netsuke" monkey carving and kindly made a print for me to use on the menu card cover.

We celebrated a few days early, as Saturday was more convenient for us! Dinner was delicious! By the way, "mei wei" means "delicious" in Chinese. "Gift tea" is Jasmine tea which is tied in the shape of a flower and made in a glass teapot so that you can watch the "flower" bloom as it is steeping. Unfortunately I did not take a picture of this.

I  tried my hand at some calligraphy to include the character for monkey with the card (opposite the menu).

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Lino Block Prints

Along with my pasta machine that was converted to a mini printing press, I also got a box of linoleum. They were cut down to size to fit the pasta machine, but actually did not work as the lino is too thick. Nevertheless, from plenty of previous experience, I know that a lino block can be printed using a wooden spoon. As a tester block though, I was keeping my image simple -- two lower legs and feet drawn directly onto the lino representing an image from my ongoing "The Skipping Project". With a larger surface to cut I would use a bench hook for safety.

It is important to have a firm grip on the cutting tool, using both hands (one as grip, the other as guide), Always cut away from yourself.

Paper is prepared in advance and

soaked. Pat damp-dry. I just use clean dish towels.

Spread some ink on a glass or plexi work surface and roll evenly.

 Roll ink onto the block.

 As this was only a test piece I didn't bother with registration, but normally when making a print I have two sets of registration marks: interior marks to place the plate on and exterior marks so that I lay down the paper leaving equal margins. The back of the paper on the lino block is rubbed firmly with a wooden spoon while making sure that the paper does not move.

Aside from the uneven margins, I was happy with the tester. I was using particularly heavy paper so I could have applied more pressure in rubbing in order to get a darker black on the shoes.