Friday, January 29, 2010

Practice Runs

It's been frigid the past couple days... I mean, nose- and hand-numbing frigid. The street is coated with salt so it's hard to get the dogs out for walks. Even with their winter coats, I worry about their exposed butt-cheeks (and their paws, of course).

To keep the pups occupied, we've been training a lot. Jack has learned "wait" (I'd give him a B so far!) and is learning "back" (back up). Cliff has lots of tricks to practice- bow, wait, spin, shake. Lucy used to know sit, down, wait, and shake but has regressed a bit. She can't hear very well anymore, and working on sign language is rather daunting. I need to start...

Anyway, we were practicing today. I think the pups are doing really well. Don't they look great? Me- okay. Is it true the camera adds 10 lbs. or do I really look that fat in real life?? OMG. I'm really embarrassed (I know the "mom jeans" don't help, but...ugh. Talk about a whale).

Without further ado...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Valentines Sketch...



... I signed up to do a Valentines Day Challenge on Wetcanvas.com. Did I mention that before? Anyway, the models for this linocut are Jack (the cuddler) and Lucy (the cuddlee). Now this is a rare occurance, but it HAS happened before. Lucy *is* the epitome of 'bitch', but she does have her better moments.

Proof?



See, I didn't concoct this image- it really did happen! And Jack came out of it without any bites, torn skin, or missing eyes.  Lucy allowed him to get up next to her, and allowed him to cuddle up against her back- a Festivus Miracle, guys.  Jack was just a foster at that point (new to the house, too)... and... wow. It totally blew my mind. Lucy isn't the kind of dog to allow that.

So the drawing. I use photographs for reference (obviously), but there are some things I'm changing here.  I'm giving Jack's front leg a little more "life", and also fleshing out Lucy's neck and face better. The camera distorted her back inside leg, so I fixed that in my sketch as well. I'm going to tinker with the background a bit- it'll still be a couch, but different color/texture/pattern for better contrast. My main challenge is going to be making this look like Jack is cuddling, not humping. You know what I mean?? I'm kind of paranoid that this will turn out into some kinky greyhound picture which it is NOT supposed to be-!!


I'm hoping to finish the sketch during lunch break today, and then begin working on my linocut tonight. If I can get this wrapped up by Sunday, then I will have completed 3 linocuts this month! My 2010 Goal is to do two per month, so I will definitely be ahead!! Exciting...

Jen

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Family Portraits

Two weeks ago a photographer came to our local Petco with a $9.99 photo package special. Of course I couldn't resist, and loaded up all 3 dogs in the Scion for a ride over. It was the funniest disaster EVER. I have the one clown just off the track who knows absolutely nothing, one deaf paranoid schitzophrenic, and a dog that never mentally leaves Planet Clifford. The poor photogs had their work cut out for them!

Outakes of the Zalewski Family Portrait Session

In short, Jack urinated all over the equipment and sign-up table, and then was SO eager for biscuits that his eyes bulge out of his head in EVERY STINKING PHOTO. Clifford had fun the first 5 minutes (doesn't he look jaunty??) and then mentally checked out to La La land. Poor Lucy looks ashamed, sad, and/or beaten in every pic :oP

Despite this, it was the most fun 30 minutes I had all week! Ha ha!

Jen

White-Breasted Nuthatch (Scanned Pic)


I finally got a nice scan of my finished White-Breasted Nuthatch, and wanted to post it. :) Today during lunch hour I'm cutting the editions down to size (8 x 10 paper- it's slightly larger now) to package and put on Etsy soon...

Jen

Monday, January 25, 2010

It Makes Your Mouth Water....


 

Jack drools.

I can't believe it. It makes me laugh and gag at the same time. I mean a Bloodhound drooling? Sure. A Saint Bernard? Absolutely. But never in a million years would I think "drool" and "greyhound" in the same sentence-! I mean...they are thin-lipped, slim-muzzled dogs. Clean, regal, and... uh... well, whatever.




In the past couple months I've begun to get serious with training Jack and let me tell you, once those jerky treats come out... so do the water works. It doesn't take much to get his salivary glands worked up into a frenzy. Thank God I don't cook a lot, because the few times I've baked biscuits he's stayed around in the kitchen with pools of drool forming at his feet. I've begun keeping a paper towel handy while we train, just so I can wipe his mouth when things start to get out of control. 

All it takes are a few sniffs of savory aromas, and the 'magic' begins.  Sometimes the drool forms a bubble...

  

 

Other times it just coagulates into a foamy ball....

 

Other times, it drips....
 


....or falls down in long, spitty ropes.



Of course Jack mastered "paw" (shake) last month and with our training, he has begun to have a great working knowledge of "wait" but still needs a lot of practice and proofing to hold it. He's also learning "back" (back up) with Clifford's expert help. I wonder if I can train him to dab the corners of his mouth with a napkin at appropriate times-? ROFL.


Jen

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

White Breasted Nuthatch- Reduction Linocut


First reduction linocut of the year! Do you remember my bad streak of reductions from last year? It went like this:

Failure.

Failure.

Failure.

But it's a new year, time for a new start, and first on the docket was a White-Breasted Nuthatch. I really want to do a series of linocuts highlighting the animals of Upstate NY. Two weeks ago I went x-country skiing at Beaver Lake and saw one of these guys, a little gray and white puffball, trying to keep warm- and I thought, "that's it-! That's my first subject!"



This was my first reduction of 2010 AND the first time in years I tried a piece of linoleum with the wood already factory-glued to the back. I had a bad experience with this backed-linoleum years ago (it was REALLY old and hard to carve) so I've avoided it, but cutting lino yourself, finding a backing board, cutting the board to size and gluing it yourself is a PITA and I was having problems with my self-glued boards going through my press adequately. I decided to give the pre-backed lino another spin, and bought a 5x7 piece at the city art store. It was really nice, a bit more crumbly than some battleship lino I've carved but not bad at all.








I carved away all the parts of the print I wanted to keep white (the paper color) and inked up a with a mix of very light grey (black, process blue and titanium white)...



...it's always so fun to see the picture start to emerge!

Second reduction meant carving away more of the block, and printing in a slightly darker gray...


 
I was a bit nervous here because this came out much darker than I wanted... But I had to trust it.

Finally, last reduction! I carved away even more and then printed in a dark gray/black:



YAY! I loved the way it came out. Unfortunately I forgot to carve my chop in, though. Can you believe it? I tried adding it later as a stamp but it came out really badly, so I nixed it. I think I'll have an edition of about 10 on this.

Here is the last stage of the block:




And the press my Dad and I built! It printed these pre-glued lino blocks BEAUTIFULLY.

I bought another pre-glued lino block for my next (I think either a landscape or woodpecker) but first I'm going to tackle another greyhound print. I've picked out some reference material and sketching begins tonight. I signed up for a Valentine Challenge* on WetCanvas, and so my print is going to be Jack and Lucy snuggling together on the couch. I'm not a romantic person in the least bit so that's as far as it's going to get with me. It's KIND of valentine-y, right?

Jen

*The best parts about Valentine's Day are the profusely-filled aisles of candy at every store you walk into, but I'm trying to eat healthy now so no chocolates or conversation hearts for me. Well, not my usual load anyway. :oP



A New Linocut... Somewhere

Here it is!

I started this post last week, just finished it up during lunch hour, hit "publish" ... and it disappears! It posted on the day I started the draft. I wish I could figure out how to change that... anyone know?

Well anywho, if you want to see my FIRST SUCCESSFUL REDUCTION LINOCUT of the year (of the past 2 years, practically!) please click the link... I think it came out better than expected. :o) Always room for improvement, of course, but a nice start...

Jen

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Goal-Setting and All That Jazz

Last year I attended an amazing lecture by renowned African-American photographer Carrie Mae Weems (if she's ever in your area, I highly suggest seeing her speak! Wow!).  Her talk was so, so SO energizing, I found myself digging in my purse, pulling out my grocery list and trying to scribble down notes in the darkened auditorium as she discussed art, being an artist, life and creativity. She talked about finding your passion, your voice, and having "a Project." She talked about having a real responsibility to ourselves to construct our own images, and an obligation show them to the public world. She asked us to answer the question of, 'What are you committed to?'" and use the answers to fill our lives with mission. Everything she said was so simple, yet so complex. The whole audience seemed to hang on every word out of her mouth.

It's January, and I'm trying to set my goals for the year. I don't call them 'resolutions' anymore but consider them real, working goals. I find that if I DON'T write the things down I want to accomplish, then life seems to... kind of float by? And all of a sudden I'm like, "Whoa! Another week has gone by, and what the heck did I do that was productive??" Crazy.

After I heard Carrie Mae Weems speak, I decided to formulate my artistic goals. And I DID, in my head, but I'm going to write (er, type) them down this time:

2010 Art Goals:

1. Finish 2 pieces of art per month!!

2. PROJECT: Continue working on my portfolio of Greyhound Art.

3. PROJECT: Begin working on documenting the Wildlife of Upstate New York in linocuts.

4. PROJECT: Continue working on documenting the Landcapes of Upstate New York in linocuts.

5. My website: Combine that and my blog onto one site. I hate having them in separate places! Why am I paying for a domain name again-?? I just renewed my hosting plan and am going to start the process realllllly soon-!

I have personal goals too (lose that extra 10 lbs., eat healthier, get Jack certified in animal-assisted therapy, keep Lucy and Cliff healthy and limber on their NSAIDs, yadda yadda) but that's another story and another project, lol. :o)

Anyone else have art/create/crafty goals for the year?

Jen

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Miss Maggie...


It took me forever to find it, but this is my favorite picture of Maggie, one of my friend Bridget's greyhounds (napping with Cliff, shortly after he was adopted). Maggie passed away on Friday after a battle with bone cancer. She was the sweetest, most kissy girl EVER! I think she was the epitome of what everyone looks for in a greyhound... a gentle, sweet, loyal hound- just a really good, good pup. It makes me so sad that two of my best friends have lost dogs within the past 4-5 weeks...  :o(

Jen

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Watch"dog- Finished Greyhound Linocut


Well, Jack's linocut is finished! Some glitches along the way. First of all, I couldn't get either of my presses to work properly (and my basement sump pump is also on the fritz, which is unfortunate because there is an underground spring somewhere near my house, constantly flooding the place... it is like a Mechanical Uprising here! No presses! No sump pump! God I hope the furnace isn't next, lol). Soooo.. I had to print these by hand, with a wooden spoon. It's hard to hand-print on thick paper like Stonehenge, so I used up the few sheets of Kitakata I had left-thin and wispy paper, really nice to hand-print with. I think one of the reasons the presses wouldn't work is because my block was lumpy. It SEEMS flat, but my glued-in head wasn't the same height as the rest of the carving (wth?)... and... well... it was just a pain.

I decided to call this one "Watch"dog, with watch in quotes because, well, greyhounds aren't really watch dogs in a guard-dog sense, but they are sighthounds and very visually perceptive... ha ha? Maybe?

I really like the way this one came out, even with all the head-bungles. And I did get some "noise" in the background... those carving marks that you DON'T want to print, but some always do... but that doesn't bother me either. I kind of like a little noise for good energy.

Anyway, my first print for 2010 is done- AND I'm happy with it- Hooray! Always good to have 'the first' under your belt...

Jen

Saturday, January 09, 2010

First Piece of the New Year! Almost there...


I have been so bad about posting! Not a great start to 2010, aye?? I try to update my blog at least twice a week, but just didn't get to things... and I have a ton of stuff to put up too... sigh.

Last week (weekend?) I posted the above photo of all my MESSED UP linocuts of Jack. It's his darn face... How do you carve a dark brindle greyhound head without it coming out like a black blob?? How do you get the details with the black brindle greyhound turning into a red brindle or light brindle? You know what I mean. A couple strokes too many with the chisel and you totally change the shade of your dog. Ug. Of course, in these linocuts I carve the whole piece first, leaving the face (hardest part) for last... only to mess up... and have to start all over again.

Finally I thought... hmm. I'm just going to take a nice body, cut the messed-up face out, carve a new face, and paste it in. Will that work?? Sooo... I removed my piece of linoleum from the plywood backing block. Cut the face out and chucked it. Re-carved several new faces on tiny pieces of linoleum until I came up with one I liked...


...and fit it in, like a puzzle piece! I then glued the pieces back on the plywood, and filled the "seam" along the neck with wood filler from the hardware store.


Pretty darn close! A lot of trouble, but it worked out. And I spent all week hemming and hawing about the "ground"... I wanted to carve grass, but the texture competed too much with the brindling. I kept carving and carving until I finally made myself stop, lol.

And do you see my "chop", on the lower right? I designed it last year but never used it! I am going to from now on, starting with all my 2010 pieces. It was so neat to carve into the piece. It's the little things in life that are exciting, right? :o)

Last night and this afternoon I spent measuring/cutting sheets of Rising Stonehenge paper (my fave) into 15 x 11 pieces, and taping off my sliding registration board (the blue tape will show me where to line up my paper and block in relation to each other)...



Last but not least, my faithful circus peanuts, keeping me company while I work! Don't they look excited?? Lol.



I think I'll use my wood filler to maybe darken more areas back into Jack's neck. Not sure. Printing tomorrow...

Jen

Sunday, January 03, 2010

First Big Storm!


We're in the middle of our first big snow storm of the season. It started last night- whipping, frigid winds, horrid drifting, the snow coming down in bucket-fulls. And it's still coming down! If it was a bit warmer, it would be wonderful to ski in but it's only 11 degrees (that's without the wind chill). It's so cold that the inside of your nose freezes and pinches together- just really, really unbearable.



I got the dogs out briefly this morning, but just for a few moments. I threw a tennis ball for Jack, and it landed in the snow he couldn't find it. Clifford, of course, was there to egg him on....



...Success! Jack found his ball buried in the drifts, but unfortunately could not see his way back to the house with all the snow in his face  LOL.



Cliff enjoys a post-potty gallop....



...and Miss Lucy hunkered up for a potty before high-tailing it back inside.

I should get out my new snow-blower (well, "new-to-me") and blow some trails around the yard for the dogs, but I'm afraid of running over Clifford's toys. He always has to bring a stuffy outside to go to the bathroom with him, but then he drops and leaves it for me to pick up. I gathered them all up and brought them in a few days ago, but I'm afraid he's dragged them all out again. I'll have to get out the shovel I guess, and compromise my poor back again. I don't know what I did to it, but it hasn't been the same the past few months. I guess I am getting old! :o(

Jen

"And another year goes by like a tolling bell..."




Well, this week has been an interesting vacation. In the art arena, it hasn't been that good. I've been trying to carve a linocut of Jack and holy toledo batman, carving the face of a young brindle dog is HARD. Especially a dark brindle like Jack. The black mask really has been throwing me for a loop- I've carved several pieces only to TOTALLY mess up the face- and totally ruining the piece. How do you carve a dog with a black face, without making them look grizzled like an elderly dog-? Challenges, challenges...

In other challenges, we've been battling fleas (how the heck did THAT happen?) and, of all things, RINGWORM. The dogs have the fleas, and I have the ringworm. It's like a freaking parasitical circus over here. :oP I've also been having horrid dreams about Lucy and Clifford- people letting them loose, having to look for them, etc. In one dream, someone gave Clifford heroin and sugar pills, and he got sick. I pulled out a gun and went to blow the face off the person who OD'ed him (I woke up before that happened). I've also been having strange dreams about my dogs who passed away- in one dream, my terrier Rudy got caught in a garage door and was lifted up and crushed in the ceiling while I watched in horror. In another dream, I was at church with my pug Ginger, and the whole congregation was singing "I believe in music" by Mac Davis, and I was singing and holding Ginger up, waving her around over my head like the Baby Jesus. So bizarre!

2010 has arrived and I am also at my heaviest weight ever. I feel horrid about it. I so DON'T want to go up a pant size or compromise my ability to go out hiking, skiing, etc with my dogs... and adult onset diabetes runs in my family... so I'm cutting my sugar intake dramatically (God help me). And I'm going to get up early and workout in the morning before work. I have FitTV, I might as well use it right?? I need to drop 10 lbs., at least. Oye.

I also have to tell you about the most amazing book I got out of the library. It's called "Unfinished Business" by James Van Praagh. This book has totally changed how I look at life- seriously- it is a mind-blowing book. If you aren't open-minded about spiritually-gifted people (the author is a medium) than you won't like it, but if you're open to different possibilities about life and after-life, than you'll totally be blown away. I've read other books by mediums like Sylvia Brown and found her stuff kind of kooky (I've also watched her on Montel and get a wierd vibe from her) but I've always thought James Van Praagh was a down-to-earth, honest, regular guy who is really gifted.  I don't buy many books anymore unless I really love them (no room on the shelves, and it's cheaper visiting the library!) but I'm DEFINITELY going to pick up a copy of this book. Totally A Plus.

Szczesliwego Nowego Roku (Happy New Year).

Jen