30 June 2019

Thinking about a new woodblock

Flipping through my drawing-tuesday sketchbook I found this "imaginative drawing" that evolved in the William Morris Gallery some months ago -
I happen to need an idea for a piece on "light" and there it was. Can (part of) it be turned into a woodblock print? Let it simmer...
 New day, some small quick renditions, to see what happens with different media -

 Maybe this is how....
 Hmm, reconsider the composition ....
 And how about a cosmic background? To get randomness, I sprinkled split lentils and drew around them -
 The block is ready to cut but I'm still working on the drawing ...
Lots of things feed in: unexpected things, like the shadow from multi-LED streetlights -
and deliberately sought celestial images -
humanoidhistory: “ Venus in transit, illustrated in Astronomy, 1875, by J. Rambosson ”
Constellation maps -

Another day -
 Endless tweaking ...

 ... and considering the printing sequence ...
Still not ready to risk all and start cutting! 

Studio Saturday - small steps with ceramics

Gradually some little fabric pots are accumulating, on days when I listen to a podcast and sew while having the first coffee of the morning. 
When I arrived at the studio I put the padlock and keys on one side of the desk, and my five little pots for dipping on the other side -
 Jackie had left some info on plaster moulds, in response to my mention of thinking of maybe using some -
 The fab five -
Oops, fabric can collapse, I had somehow forgotten that - but it led to a new way of gathering and storing info -
 Five pots drying out -

28 June 2019

Twilight walk

Because of spending two hours in a car today, and longer than that sat at my table drawing, at 8.30 I'd clocked up only 4,400 steps, somewhat short of my daily target. So I took along some podcasts* and started walking towards the sunset, a startlingly yellow sky making the trees look even darker, going along this street and that one, round corners and along the straight stretches... keeping the camera in my pocket. 

But eventually it did come out...
Haircut, anyone? Come back tomorrow...

A coded warning? "Do Not Graffiti on my Wall"?

Art classes, a short walk away

For many years I waited for the bus outside the vets every morning

This place hasn't changed in the 30-some years I've lived in this area

Super-size robin!

Dead end street

Simply charming

Unusual rose

Building work....

The Rapunzel house?

The biggest mallow bush I've ever seen; it completely filled the garden

Blooming privet everywhere; nasty smell

Alstromeria in a wonderful colour

A big hedge of fuzzy flowers, wonder how long that took to grow
Finally the light was fading and I was nearly back home. Target achieved.

*30 Animals that Changed the World (Tardigrades and vaccine delivery); 5 Live Science (Dr Karl); Tate (The Art of Memory); History of English Podcast (Romantic Warriors - late 13th century). On my new phone, the podcasts didn't transfer over, so I'm keeping it simple at the moment - there are a lot of episodes of Digital Human to catch up with ... not all at once ...

27 June 2019

Poetry Thursday - train songs

Coming across these photos, taken at my local station (Crouch Hill, on the Gospel Oak to Barking line of the London Overground, four trains an hour in each direction, and a variable number of freight trains) on a sunny morning in late May, I thought there surely will be a semi-famous poem about a freight train....

Train train train 
Page 1 of an online search, though, came up with Wikipedia's List of Train Songs - "about 1,000 songs by artists worldwide, alphabetized by song title" - both recorded and, pre-recording-era, printed.

Spinning at random, the mouse wheel stopped at Different Trains by Steve Reich (b.1936). Listen - and catch the screened footage accompanying the performance - here.
"Reich's work took on a darker character in the 1980s with the introduction of historical themes as well as themes from his Jewish heritage, notably Different Trains."

Another spin of the wheel, and a click or two - we arrive at The Traditional Ballad Today, in which is the song that has been going through my head -

DESCRIPTION: "Freight train, freight train, run so fast/Please don't tell what train I'm on/So they won't know where I've gone." Rest of song gives singer's wishes for her burial "at the foot of old Chestnut Street."
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Cotten
EARLIEST DATE: 1952 (composed c. 1905?)
Its author recorded it, and so did Pete Seeger (and some others). The entry adds a note:
Though not folk in origin, it was so widely recorded in the Sixties that it did seem briefly to go into oral tradition, though I suspect it's nearly dead as a folk song by now. 
The popularity of the song seems to have been due partly to its use as a fingerpicking exercise. It is ironic to note that Elizabeth Cotten herself was left-handed, but instead of playing a left-handed guitar, she played a right-handed guitar flipped 180 degrees (i.e. she had her left hand on the fretboard, but with the bass strings on top and the treble on the bottom). So effectively none of the people imitating her style are actually imitating her technique.
Here she is, along with the lyrics for the folk song - I remember a line that went "...as long as I keep travelling on" - that must have been in another version.

Freight train, freight train, run so fast
Freight train, freight train, run so fast
Please don't tell what train I'm on
They won't know what route I'm going
When I'm dead and in my grave
No more good times here I crave
Place the stones at my head and feet
And tell them all I've gone to sleep
When I die, oh bury me deep
Down at the end of old Chestnut Street
So I can hear old Number Nine
As she comes rolling by
When I die, oh bury me deep
Down at the end of old Chestnut Street
Place the stones at my head and feet
And tell them all I've gone to sleep
Freight train, freight train, run so fast
Freight train, freight train, run so fast
Please don't tell what train I'm on
They won't know what route I'm going

As for the semi-famous poem about a freight train ... any suggestions?

26 June 2019

Woodblock Wednesday - end of term

In the last class of term I returned to what I started working on at the start of term -
 Enhancements of the grey layer ... rather messy in my haste (not a good idea)....
The plan is to use these to make a small version of the Japanese multi-section book that we made in the Monday evening printing+bookbinding course -
 ... and I have plenty of other possibilities for covers of larger versions -
 Lots activity elsewhere -
 including experimentation with the traditional method of transferring the key block via nori and printed paper, then rubbing off the layers of the paper -
At the end of the day, laying out the work - and passing round the strawberries that Val brought in -

 Closeups of prints by first-timers -

 ... and by the repeat offenders -

 This one is the start of a reduction woodblock - you can see the face starting to emerge -

Postscript - I hopped on the bus and went to John Purcell Papers, a warehouse near Brixton -

 and got samples of a few papers from their Japanese range -
When I feel brave, or have a suitable block, I'll try printing them -

Unfortunately the papers have to be bought in bulk (?25 sheets at a time?) and their sketchy website doesn't have a price list and definitely needs updating.