The words “Happy Valentine’s Day” were virtually everywhere last week. And in every image…hearts! This reminded me of a special art piece I did for a painting class. It was done in a style called “Cliché/Kitsch” that Celia, my teacher, had encouraged us to depict. I used a magenta coloured wrapping paper with a heart-shape pattern as an inspiration, and a photo of myself in a blue wig, which I took for my Contemporary Art History class. For that art history project, I’d worn a few different wigs and tried out some funky hair styles. Then I made all sorts of expressions on my face and took photos from every angle. I ended up using one of them for my ‘Kitsch-style painting’. So in this painting, the subject is wearing a shiny blue wig, face adorned with a childishly playful smile. I surprised myself – is that me?
The 14″ x 11″ painting was finished fairly quickly – within two hours – with acrylic and gel medium on wood board. I had borrowed the bright blue and permanent rose acrylics from Luba. I left the original wood surface as the girl’s skin tone, and scraped out the heart shapes in the background with a knife. In the end, I sprinkled glitter powders onto the blue wig and painted the girl’s nails with real bright yellow nail polish, borrowed from my daughter. When it was finished, I thought it portrayed the Kitsch aesthetic quite well, and I was happy when others seemed to love it! No wonder Kitsch was able to become a unique style of art – who said that art had to be conventionally ‘classy’ and hard to understand?
In light of the ‘Valentine season’, I have dug into the old memories of this blue-wigged lady, and have recalled a verse of an old song that I wanted to share with you. It is sung by John Denver, called “Perhaps Love”, in which he ponders upon the idea of ‘love’ and its many sides…
Oh, love to some is like a cloud To some as strong as steel For some a way of living For some a way to feel And some say love is holding on And some say letting go And some say love is everything And some say they don’t know
This song reminds me of how I feel that love can be a mixture of all different kinds of tastes and colours, just like sweets in candy store, which, during this month, all seem to be in the shape of a heart. And so, I have called this painting “Sweet Heart”.
Yesterday was a snowy Saturday in Toronto. I spent the whole day around the Spadina/St. Clair area and attended an art show reception at Galleria 814, which was displaying the work of Michael Stoeber. It was a wonderful show that celebrated the uniqueness in his beautiful abstractions.
The road was covered in mud and slush. This made me recall the second winter I was attending TSA…It was a piercingly cold winter accompanied by relentlessly falling snow, and Spadina Avenue was coated in mucky snow over an invisible surface of ice. Being in that weather, buried in winter wear and attached to a heavy bag filled with art supplies, had made me give up on the thought of chasing streetcar no. 510 to Union Station, since I didn’t want to break any of my legs or arms. At the end of that term, I had lost 5 pounds due to a busy schedule and maybe due to the body fat I’d burned throughout such a freezing season!
During that time, year of 2008, I drew a city scene of the corner of Spadina and Adelaide Street. It’s a 36×24″ drawing on mylar with conté and acrylic ink. The silk flora scarf in the drawing is a beautiful piece that I had bought from Japan and is special to me, as I have kept it for over 20 years. I wanted to wrap the gray gloomy sky and slushy roads with this scarf to help me get over that tough winter season, blanketing the coldness with a layer of spring warmth.
Japanese woodblock prints show the special beauty which cannot be shown in Western printmaking. Maybe it’s the woodgrain; or maybe the quality of transparent watercolour as a printing media; or the strength of human arms that brushes the woodboard, penetrating the Japanese handmade paper: all those facts give the “clean & solitary” beauty to Japanese woodblock prints.
Kafka, my Cat, has been used as the main character in my prints. I did one etching print of this simple yet interesting composition image. I would like to try to carve this image into wood board and make Japanese Wood block prints. After many test prints, with black ink image or violet background prints, the orange background one, as the attached image, is the last and best print that I tried to pull out in good paper last Wednesday. The duo-toned orange colours bring a warm and sunny atmosphere to the whole image, surprising me!
I’ve only been practicing Japanese Woodblock Printmaking, the old traditional Japanese art technique, since the Spring term. It requires a pair of strong hands and a few fine carving tools to carve and gauge the woodblock nicely and deeply. From time to time, I have to rest my hand in between gauging the wood, otherwise I cannot even hold the cup when I need a drink of tea or coffee. But the organic quality of the woodblock and the scent of the wood dust charms me very much. The black ink is like magic which charms my heart the minute it shows on the paper. I continuously learn from this art technique, simply because I have been thinking far ahead about how when I am too old to handle the heavy press, I can just do Japanese Wood block print at home. I don’t need too much to make a print, just watercolor, black ink and shoes brushes and paper… and at the same time, I can have a cup of hot tea, in a room with music, with my dog or cat beside me.
It’s something to look forward to, just like Kafka under the sunshine in the mornings!