Monday, March 30, 2015

Biking through Wine Country

I I love biking. Not cycling, with spandex and sportsbars (although that's fun too), but biking, with a basket and a bell. Yesterday I was wandering about the vineyard. Everyone else was sleeping or occupied, so without any planning I hopped on one of the bikes and rode into the village to have a look around. It being Sunday lots of people were milling about, having a post church coffee, visiting wth their neighbors. I rode up and down every street in Torrelles de Foix. I thought I'd head back after that, but the village on the hill up behind our property caught was beckoning.  Here's a peek back towards Mas Els Igols from up there. 
Our residence is the house off in the distance. 

I started to head home, but every time I did something else would catch my eye and I was drawn on in another direction. It was glorious.  I rode up to the castle above Sant Marti Sarroca, down into the village there, and then far far out along winding country roads. Some of them petered out into muddy ruts at the back of someone's property, where I'd turn around and head off in another direction. There were just enough people to keep it interesting; out working on their houses and fields, half-waving hello as they rode by on their motorbikes. The colours and the textures, random fields of poppies, crumbling stone fences, white walls splashed with shots of deep green trees growing in front of them, gorgeous lemon trees in people's yards and big perfect irises growing by the roadside kept me fascinated. After hours of wandering I remembered the bread that was rising under a teatowel on the counter as I headed out.  I turned the bike around, rode back, and sat at our kitchen table cutting chunks of Camembert and laying them on top of warm slices of perfect country bread. I could not have been more content. It was my last Sunday in Spain. I reflected back on all the thoughts, conversations and adventures I'd had here.  With each passing day now I'm more and more excited to get home, see my friends, family, meld back into the life I left waiting there, but it feels good to know that I've absorbed a little of the Spanish countryside that I'll be carrying with me back home. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spain Linocut with Original Watercolour

Well here they are; the linocut with watercolour works from my residency in Spain.  This has been such an amazing adventure, and I've loved every minute of it. My time here is winding down, with just a few days left until I fly home. I feel it's been productive. I have a portfolio with 10 each of 8 different images, meaning I'm coming home with 80 finished works. I've learned so much, made some incredible friends who I will keep forever, and had fun teaching  workshop at Estudio Nómada in Barcelona this past week.  I was very impressed with the set up here in Penedés.  It is really conducive to working, and it's just a wonderful lifestyle.  There's no tv or anything, but once a week our hosts set up a projector and we screen an art movie on one of the huge white studio walls while we curl up on the sofas. They do a weekly artists lunch as well, provide rides into the train station so we can visit barcelona once in a while, and otherwise give us space to create as we please.  There are bikes to ride in to the nearby villages, and a garden with veggies and herbs that we can access.  There are 5 of us here, and we each have a comfy bedroom and our own washroom/shower. We share a kitchen with everything we need (amazing what can be done with a two-burner hotplate and a toaster oven).  If you're an artist and looking for a residency recommendation, this is a fantastic one. Google Estudio Nomada residency and you'll find it. I'll edit and add a link when I'm on a real computer. 

For those of you who pre-bought works from this trip thank you again. I couldn't have done it without you, and it was fun to think of each of you as I was working away; wondering which pieces you'd choose. These photos are off in colour (the paper is actually true white, and the painted colours much more intense than shows here) but it gives you an idea. I'm planning to leave a couple of each piece in Barcelona at a gallery. If you already know which image type you prefer please email me. I'll send you photos of what I have finished and you can let me know which one you want so I make sure I don't give it to a gallery. 
I'm bringing all of the original watercolour sketches home, so if you bought one of those no worries.  I'll post them all once I'm home with a better camera/internet combo. 

Casa Calvet 
This gorgeous building snuck up on me. I just looked up and fell in love. I didn't realize it was one of Gaudi's works until the piece was underway. 

Casa Battló
Another Gaudi Casa. I love how the building seems to be doing so much more than just standing there, and have tried to capture that movement in this piece. There were swarms of strangers lined up out front while I was there, so rather than trying to capture them I imported one of my favourite couples into the scene.  Any guesses who they are? 

Parc Güell
For those of you who've been there, you know I could have done a whole series just in this park. It is a visual feast. I enjoyed trying to suggest some of the actual landmarks in the view beyond the park out towards the sea. Sagrada Familia in three swipes of a carving blade or less?  Why not ;-). The couple will the camera (may need to zoom in to see them) were fun to capture. 
Crystal Palace 
This structure sits in Parc Buen Retiro in Madrid. The whole park is amazing, but the Crystal Palace held a special surprise for me. Read my earlier post on the wonder I found inside. The metal umbrella and speakers you see through the windows here were on top of the installation described in the post.  I've done some of these with blue/purple skies, some with yellow. This one with the pinks (much 'hotter' in real life) is my fave at the moment.  

Passion Facade 
Every inch of the Sagrada Familia is fascinating. I chose this facade as my first piece (yes, there will be more) because I fell in love with the embracing couple to the left of the door.  Reminded me of why I'm heading home after this residency ;-). The cranes of course are not there because they're updating, but because it is still only partially finished. Same with the netting you see down one side. Just another couple hundred years and we can pop in and see the finished project.  That's some incredible long term vision. I was interested in Gaudi and his work before I came here; now I'm awestruck. 

Metropolis
This corner is just off Gran Via in Madrid.  In a city full of beautiful buildings I think that Metropolis my fave.  I kept spotting it from different perspectives and thinking 'oh, there's my building!'

Floristeria
This is a composite of a few of the many flower shops I came across in my travels. It was fun piecing all my favourite elements into one piece. 

Me:"Hey Ladies"
Ladies: "Hay?"
These ladies are our neighbors here at Mas Els Igols. They have been my source of dairy for the past month.  The farmer is there every day at 5pm. We get on one of the old bikes they've provided for us, ride about 600 metres up the hill with a big plastic jug and 'fill 'er up'. We've dubbed these two 'Clara y Cana' which are your two choices if you're ordering draft beer at the pub (Clara has lemon in it, Cana is plain old draft). 
Thanks ladies. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cana y Clara

Me: "Hey Ladies"
Ladies: "Hay?"

My newest linocut, 'Cana y Clara". They are not only my muses, but also my milk, cheese and yogurt supply here. 

Thanks Ladies. 

They will get pink noses and blue skies once they're dry. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Print O' the Day

I have been a woman possessed for the last two days.  I did this ink sketch to map out my next piece. 
 
I made a great playlist and put myself in a carving trance.
 
 If you looked closely you'd see The Hip cued up there. I'm a good Canadian girl at heart after all. 
I went from morning until 2 am last night, got up and went back at it this morn, and by late this afternoon I'd finished not just carving the plate but had 10 prints drying on the rack. I love having access to a press 24/7!  I'm going to have to start scouting for one of these back home. 
Here's a blurry pic of the pulled print (my iPhone is still not speaking to the Internet here, so no good camera) 
I'm looking forward to getting some colour on it. I think the blue of the sky will be really fun to see, and will change the way the space reads pretty significantly. 

And now I've started another one that is a total departure from what I've been doing.  Suffice it to say it's not a cityscape. It'll be fun to do, and shouldn't take too long so I'll post soon. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Akua Inks, Dairy Cows and the Final Leg of my Residency

This little press is working brilliantly!  I'll be able to come home with great quality prints all done. A couple of nice working surprises here (if you're not a printmaker you might want to skip this part). One was finding such a lovely little press here. Two was discovering that a small one like this will do what I need. We just cut a longer board to run through it. And three; the Akua inks I've always used for test prints work brilliantly with a press!  I've always switched to messy oil based inks when it was time to run finished prints because I thought it was necessary to get that rich smooth dark. Once the little press was set up in my studio I thought I'd run a test to see if it was working properly. I didn't want to drag the oil based ink out and make a mess so I ran a print with the Akua. Wow.  It's better than oil based in a press. Richer looking, easier to work with, and no bleeding. When I first heard about it I bought a full range of colours. When I tried it at home I couldn't get the same quality of hand transferred print that I could with oil, so it was relegated to the back cupboard. Now I can't wait to play with the full palette when I get home. 

We had plans to do another pizza party at the neighboring vineyard today, but it's pouring rain here in Spain (we must be mainly in the plane) so I imagine that'll be called off.  I'm happy to just have another studio day. I'm working on a few new watercolours while my prints dry. One is a little sketch I did of the vineyards from our courtyard yesterday. I like that they're not in full summer glory yet.  The vine stumps look like gnarled hands. They are very Van Gogh to me ( the vines themselves, not my sketch of them).  The other is the metropolis building I sketched in Madrid, and there's one more I'm planning to do that relates to the dairy farm up the road. We've been going up there by bike to visit the babies (so cute) and to buy our dairy products. The farmer packed us unto his delivery truck the other day and took us back to his little production facility to show us how he makes everything.  He speaks so fast I think I catch about 20% of what he says, but the dairy products are the best ever, and it's fun to see how passionate he is about what he's doing, and how respectfully he treats his animals. He showed us how they're milked, where the cows line themselves up and walk into the milking booth of their own volition, and little lasers (no, Austin Powers fans, not 'frickin' lasers) find their teats and vacuum suck them into the milking tubes to relieve them. I was surprised at how great the milk is fresh from the cow. I thought it'd be a bit weird, or 'farmy', but no, it's just delicious. 

Life here on the vineyard really is beautiful. We work as a team on everything, make all our food fresh every day, make our bread, our mayonnaise. We're all working on our own projects, but bouncing ideas off each other and gathering up for big family style dinners every night.  Last night we turned one of the studios into a mini movie theatre again. We dragged the sofas in there and filled a wall with the projector.  We've  watched some strange and wonderful movies here; this one about an American architect who builds houses off the grid, basically with pop bottles and beer cans. Earth ships he calls them. Pretty interesting stuff.  

I have 10 more days here. One of them will be spent in Barcelona teaching a one-day course on lino printmaking, but the rest I plan to savor, working in my studio and enjoying the company of my new friends. And as each day passes, my yearning for that first Vancouver sushi feast surrounded by my menfolk at home will grow stronger, until I'm just as excited to arrive there as I was to arrive here. Happy girl!




Wednesday, March 18, 2015

First Test Prints from Spain!

Here's a sneak peek at my new linocut print series here in Spain. I just did this first run of test prints tonight. This was taken with the camera on my aging iPad and is pretty fuzzy, but it gives you an idea of what I've been up to. It's taken a huge amount of work to get to this point!  I've been hitting the studio early in the morning and staying until my hands could carve no more. I've loved every second of it. 

Part of why I was working so hard was that I wanted to be able to take a few days off to visit Valencia for Las Fallas, their big annual festival. We took the bus down there on Sunday morning and rented an adorable little flat right in the heart of the old town through airbnb. It was a total blast!  They make these huge sculptures called Fallas (pronounced 'fayas', which is good, because it keeps you from walking around saying "wow, look at that huge phallus!"  
They're all over the city
 Most of them are elaborate and massive, and at the end they burn them all!  Crazy. It started in days of old, where everyone brought out all the stuff they no longer needed and they burned it as a kind of civic purge/spring clean. Now there's a huge fireworks show every night, street parties, pageants and a constant stream of parades.  We rented bikes and toured every inch of the city. 
It was fun, but exhausting. I was very glad to get back here last night, climb into my bed, and get back to printmaking this morning. 

Here's a closer view of the test prints, again with the fuzzy iPad camera. I did them with a wooden spoon, but there is an old press here that I'm planning to resurrect with a little help (and elbow grease) from my new friends. 
     
Now time to get some sleep so I can make my adjustments and pull more of these tomorrow, and possibly even start playing with some colour!  Stay tuned...




Friday, March 13, 2015

Life in the vineyard and our experimental kitchen



Still happily making art out here in the vineyard. I'm halfway through my stay at Mas Els Igols.  I want to drag my feet now to slow the time down. I'm happy with my work progress, almost finished carving six lino plates. They're more complex than things I've done before.  I'm looking forward to sharing them, but they're not quite there yet. 
Art is not the only thing getting created here. We've turned the residency into our 'experimental kitchen'. Everyone here loves to cook (and eat!) And we're having these lovely meals every night. 
Like this:
And this:
Yes, that IS creme brûlée, although it gets called creme Catalan in these parts. Made in the toaster oven. We have only that and a two burner hot plate, but every night is a culinary adventure. We ( meaning Cedric, while we cheer him on) are getting lots of things for the garden, and from the wild (like freshly foraged asparagus). We've started a little snail farm too. The boys visited a neighboring farm today while Candice and I worked and came home with some fresh cows milk. Every meal gets one dish with almonds from our trees. Tonight's was almond and chocolate chip cookies, also via the toaster oven. We're earning it though, working hard and long every day. This morning we got up early and rode up the wee mountain behind our house to the church we can see perched atop. It looks so close from our farm, but it was an hour and a half grind straight uphill. I can ride, and I had to get off and walk more than once. It was worth it though, for the view...
and for the ride back down: twenty minutes of steep and windy road through vineyards and villages. Heaven. 
The pics up top are for my new artist bio. I've been selected to be 'artist of the month' in April for the federation of Canadian Artists in Vancouver. They asked for a picture of me outstanding in my field, but I chose to sit ;-). Not sure which one to use. Probably the second. 
Next up? We are resurrecting the old press that was here on the property. We're taking a couple of days off and heading down to Valencia for las Fallas, their big festival. We're back Tuesday evening, and I should be ready to start printing by then. Will keep you posted.