31 August 2014

Blizzbox 2015

I was honoured to be asked and happy to participate in this fun calendar project, spearheaded by Blizzmax Gallery duo Peter and Alice Mennacher, which features prints all made at the wonderful Spark Box Studio. I'd been meaning to come up with some ideas for things to print at Spark Box for a few years now, and this was the perfect opportunity to get my ass into gear and print something.

Chrissy Poitras and Kyle Topping, who run Spark Box together, are great teachers and my workshop in screen printing and in block printing helped me figure out which method I'd like to use for my print (of course, I still needed to come up with an idea). About halfway through the workshop I decided doing a lino cut block print would be my best option because it seemed like the speedier choice, considering the short deadline and my already-in-progress (and very huge) War Project.

I went home armed with freshly-learned block printing knowledge and a piece of linoleum I would eventually use for my print. Excited, I immediately began ransacking my photo archives for ideas. I came upon a few shots of a couple of Mounties I took in Toronto's Kensington Market during a Pedestrian Sunday nearly a decade ago and, considering the month assigned to me was July (specifically with July 1st being Canada Day), I felt I could do something with them. After a bunch of sketching I came up with the design below (reversed, so that it would print correctly).

Not bad.

I'd done a little bit of this sort of thing during the first few months of Small Pond's existence, so we had our own carving tools, but it was tricky, making sure I didn't eliminate too many details by accident, making the image hard to read. I knew it would look rough in the end, and I was counting on it, but I still wanted the figures to be recognizable as Mounties. My lino cut turned out better than I expected.


They've got great printing gear at Spark Box and I was excited to finally do some work here with these amazing machines. The monthly calendar dates were done by Alice on the beautiful typesetting letterpress that I painted last year during my County 101 painting marathon (it's the sixth one down on this page).


Sure, I'm hamming it up here, but my enthusiasm (and I'll say it again: my excitement) is genuine and sincere and I'll probably be thinking up some more printing projects this winter, and I'll definitely come up with something for next year's calendar if they'll have me back.


I'd done a few test presses, but I think this shot is of me uncovering my first actual calendar page. Even though I knew pretty much what to expect, it was a thrill to reveal that first (and second, and third, and so on) print.

Happily and excitedly satisfied.

Yup, they all turned out great. I made the design simple enough (and had realistic enough expectations about my involvement in this project) that catastrophic failure was greatly minimized, especially under the guidance of Chrissy and Kyle.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Final print pre-watercolour.

I love the look of block printing noise and wanted to see as much of it as I could, having it give a nice sort of handmade texture without distracting from the main image.

We all made 12 official prints on pre-dated calendar pages as well as however many tests were necessary to fine-tune the work. Once the ink was dry, I went back to the studio to paint the jackets red using watercolours as per my original plan.

Each of our prints will be on sale for $70 unframed, $120 framed, and $500 for the whole set of 12 (one from each artist). The "box" in "Blizzbox" refers to the display box for the calendar, where each month can be swapped out so the current one is facing out I don't have a picture of this). The exhibition details are way back up at the top of this post.

Photos of me by Chrissy Poitras.

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