Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Slow Lane

The balcony at the indoor pool is the best place to eat lunch on campus during the winter. It's warm and cozy, almost spa-like, and although it's full of students most of them are sleeping or watching movies on their laptops, so it's way quieter than the eating areas in the Student Union Building.

Sitting on the carpeted bleachers overlooking the pool, I love watching the swimmers. The ones in the slow lane are perfect models for when I feel like whipping out my sketchbook to knock off a few minutes of drawing during lunch. This guy stopped to take a break against the pool's edge and I couldn't resist capturing his moment of relaxation. Ahhh...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Caretaker

So, good news – I've been drawing every day. The 15 minute rule is working so far. It's a small enough amount of time that it feels like it's always possible to fit it in somehow, whether it's gestures at a street corner while waiting for a friend, swimmers in the slow lane below where we eat lunch at the campus pool, or practice drawing leaves of the spinach I love so much, post-dinner.

A couple days last week my minutes (more than 15 in this case) were spent working on an illustration for the cover of a program for my friend Christine's play. She's putting on Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, for the PuSH festival coming up later this month. I've collaborated with Christine before, on the design of a poetry anthology she produced, and jumped at the chance to do so again. And I'm really excited to see the play, which she's staging in her apartment with an intimate 17 audience members per showing. Very cool. If you want to go too, the dates are January 27–February 6, with performances at 7:00 nightly, 2:00 on Sundays. Email to reserve tickets.

Christine asked for the cover illustration to be "troubled but optimistic" and somewhat feminine, as she cast the play with three women rather then the three men it was originally written for. More of her thoughts on the play which influenced the illustration:
I like to tell people that I first got the idea of putting on The Caretaker when I moved into my new place and I was surrounded by boxes of junk – my junk. The truth is that my junk follows me wherever I go. No matter where I'm living, my home looks like the set of The Caretaker. Perhaps this is why I've become acutely aware of the situation in which Aston and Davies live: their susceptibilities to homelessness and mental illness. Being a woman, I've often thought about how tough it mush be for a woman to live on the streets. This is why I chose to cast The Caretaker with actresses. Homelessness is difficult for everybody, but a woman would be lucky to survive 24 hours on the street by herself. Though Harold Pinter wrote The Caretaker in 1959, it's still relevant today because we still don't have solutions for the problems this play addresses. – Christine Gibson

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Sketchbook highlights: Nov/Dec 09

I finished a little sketchbook last month, and am now beginning to work through another, but wanted to take a quick look back. Below are a few glimpses of November and December.

My one resolution for the year (I discovered last year that if I make just one it actually happens – I'm now a bread maker!) is to dedicate at least 15 minutes of each day to drawing. So, I plan to share daily sketches here a lot more often now.

I contemplated starting a daily drawing project – 365 something... But after thinking for a few weeks, I hadn't been able to decide on what project would be just right for me. At the moment it feels too restrictive to focus on one subject or concept, so I'm just going to draw whatever catches my eye or is stuck in my head and see drawing every day as an accomplishment in itself and a catalyst for so many other things. We'll see how it goes, and if a project idea does surface that I'm excited about and I change my approach, you'll be the first to know.

On the skytrain

On the bus on the way to the dentist, obsessing about being late and watching a man who looked like he was as worried as I; at the dentist – composing this illustration in my head to distract myself from the horridness

The beginnings of an alphabet drawn after watching an under the sea IMAX film with our nieces

At Erin's place in Whistler, a rather unorthodox Mrs Potato Head asked me to draw her portrait

Having lunch at Finch's for the first time ever – on my first day of Christmas holidays

Peace and the process of card making

Happy New Year! Now that Christmas is over, it's safe to reveal the mysterious process behind this year's card. Hmm, ink, stencil, a mini potato stamp – not really that mysterious, but I hate to ruin the surprise that good old fashioned mail offers. So here, now, a look behind the cosmic mess that was my 2009 xmas card:

A couple of my favourite finished cards. The best part about the fact that the process evolves as I make more and more cards is that each one is very different – it's fun to flip through the stack after and find one that feels just right for the person I'm sending it to. Cute dots, or an explosion?

It started with some bus-ride-brainstorming in my sketchbook:

The note on the side says "make a stencil - paint lines with watercolour - thin brush." Which is exactly what I did.

I was kind of in love with the way the stencil looked after painting several cards, and considered stopping everything, scanning it in and making a card design out of that. Ha. Isn't it beautiful?

But I kept painting the cards. I did lots of tests with different colours, different brush strokes etc. until I was fairly happy.

Then I set about splattering the backgrounds of forty cards. I wanted it to look layered, to create a watery winter universe for my peace and stars to float in.

I newspapered the kitchen floor, plastered the bottom cupboards with garbage bags to create a mini spray booth of sorts, and set up a clothesline so I could hang the cards to angle the drips just right.

When I had splattered and stenciled each card, long after the mulled wine and sausage rolls were finished and all friends had left, I called it a day. But I didn't feel like the cards were finished. There was something missing. I spent a couple of weeks looking at them and entertaining various options for that essential last detail. Also effectively procrastinating the writing and mailing part of the process (never as much fun as the making). When I couldn't wait any longer I turned to my old friend the potato.

Actually a very small piece of a potato in this case. The smallest potato stamp I've ever made:

I added a tiny star to each card, in whichever corner called for it. I had felt like the cards were too floaty, dreamy, watery – that's the mood I was going for, but they needed one sharp-edged component to provide focus. One bright yellow star.

And another on the back of each envelope:

Another year, another card. This year more than ever paper cards seemed to be on their way out, but I don't want to give up the excuse to dedicate a whole day to making a mess in the apartment and letting an idea take shape from whatever whims come over me as a result of the mulled wine, treats, and friends. And the hope that people will be thrilled to open up something unexpected.