Thursday, 19 June 2014

Poems in the Morning

A couple of mornings ago I went down to the art gallery to work at the desk of the Aberdeen Artists Society Annual Exhibition, and found, sitting on that desk, a pile of papers. A pile of poems actually, and one for almost every one of the artworks hanging in the exhibition. The poems were written by the very accomplished Sheena Blackhall, Aberdeen's Makar (official poet laureate). Sheena keeps a blog here, and you can find more of her poems here.

Reading my way through her poems as the morning wore on was a delight. It was lovely to mentally walk through the exhibit and see the works from her perspective. As I have mentioned, I have two pieces in this year's exhibition, and I was thrilled to read her responses to them. It is a magical feeling to find your creations have gone out into the world and met with other ideas and creative processes resulting in something new and unexpected. So, thank you Sheena, you certainly put a smile on my face!

And, for your reading pleasure, I present Sheena's poems:

Twenty Geishas

Twenty Geishas went to sea
In a vessel of polished pine
The traders' routes offered to fill their coffers
For sharing virtues free

The Flying Dutchman closed his sails
For the Geishas to step aboard
And what transpired it certainly fired
Their spirits which simply soared

The Marie Celeste, they encountered next
Do you wonder it's not been found?
With kisses of honey and blandishments sunny
The steersman he ran aground

So if twenty Geishas you should see
When you're sailing the ocean wide
Don't let them on deck, your ship they will wreck
Keep hard on the starboard side!

The Narcissist

Along the narcissist's body
Selfies break out like boils
Coming to a head

Faces sprout in every direction
The Twitter bird flits from ear to ear

Look at me, look at me it whispers
Am I not adorable?

Monday, 16 June 2014

The Narcissist

For a little while now I have been meaning to post about the mezzotint you see pictured here. This past winter I spent my Tuesdays taking the train back and forth across Scotland so I could spend some time at Glasgow Print Studios learning about this lovely, tonal printmaking process. The print is quite small, only 10 x 14 cm, so many of these faces you see here are probably about the size of your littlest fingernail.

Mezzotint is a little less common than other printmaking techniques, but basically how it works is that the surface of a metal plate is roughened by passing over it many, many times with a tool called a 'rocker' which is covered with tiny, steel teeth. Rocking a plate is a very long process. For a small plate like this it will take hours and hours, and for a large plate it could even take months. Once the rocking is finished, the plate, if printed, would produce a rich, velvety black tone. Any lightening of this black tone is achieved by scraping away at the rough plate to make it smoother, so it holds less ink when it is printed. If you like you, can watch a video of this process here.

I really fell in love with this type of printing. Even as I was attracted by the rich tones of mezzotint, I worried that it would be almost impossible to make small, precise images. Happily this was not the case, and there seem to be endless possibilities with this medium. So, even if the plate preparation is rather long, I am really looking forward to making many more mezzotints in the future.