Visit the book campaign’s home page to learn more.Read More
New Leaf Editions has launched the fundraising campaign on indiegogo.com for the poetry book I am illustrating with copper etchings of urban sketches!
Below is the video from the campaign:
This is a big collaborative project between the printmaker Peter Braune of New Leaf Editions, the poet Christopher Levenson and artist/urban sketcher Sigrid Albert (me) — a 40-page hand-printed, hand-bound book on archival paper containing 18 letterpress-printed poems and 9 copperplate etchings. The book will be hand-bound and the cover will be an embossed, hand-made paper by another local artist and printmaker, Reg Lissel of Heavenly Monkey. It will be a limited edition. The final quantity will depend on the amount of interest generated by the fundraising campaign.
I designed the book too, and helped record and edit the video you see above (you will quickly be able to tell that I am not a professional videographer.)
The poems are beautiful, wise, and witty impressions of Vancouver. Christopher Levenson, a highly regarded Canadian poet, moved here 6 years ago with his wife Oonagh from Ottawa, and wrote these poems as he discovered the city. We became friends shortly after their arrival in Vancouver.
If you do nothing else, listen to Chris as he recites “In the Public Libary” from 2:44 to 3:48.
Over the last 6 months, I’ve been visiting locations all over Vancouver to create urban sketches for the 9 poems I’ve chosen to illustrate, and then drawing and developing these scenes in great detail on copper plates in a challenging, narrow vertical format of 3.5″ x 11″. The initial sketches on location are very rough; the final drawings are done directly on the copper plate.
This is my very first foray into copper etching, and I have loved every minute of it (OK, with a few frustrations, but one can fix a lot of things in the process). I have learned so much about what goes into printmaking and copper etching. I have explored working on hard ground, soft ground, with aquatints, and drypoint, under Peter’s tutelage.
All etchings are being electro-plated in steel to protect the linework and to allow printing in bright colours, which might otherwise be affected by interacting with the copper.
I will introduce some glimpses into the book and the etching process in the next few posts.
Support traditional print-making and get a hand-printed piece of art
You can visit the campaign here: indiegogo.com/projects/getting-to-know-you.
• For $25 you get a hand-printed poem.
• For $75 you get a hand-printed broadsheet with a poem and an etching.
• For $150 you get a printmaking session with Peter Braune, to a finished print.
• For $200 you can order the whole book in advance. It’s $300 to buy it later.
Expected completion: March 2014.
I make no money on this, my deal is that I get a certain number of prints. But the printmaker, Peter Braune at New Leaf Editions, is testing out this new way of fundraising to finance the project partly in advance, because it is so much work. The printmaker will be working for days or even weeks, just printing this project.
It’s truly a labour of love.Read More
I can finally start that religion I’ve been meaning to
I hope that I can encourage others to break out and not to question or limit themselves. If you have an urge to do something, within reason obviously, that is not going to hurt anyone else or yourself, and that you feel strongly about doing, why not do it?
My 3-month escape to Berlin was good for me, it met some needs I had, it really was beyond wonderful.
I also learned about Berlin and its history, I met both former Ossies (East Berliners) and Wessies (West Berliners). I met someone who’d been imprisoned by the East German StaSi for 5 years. I met people who escaped East Germany in dramatic ways. I heard that the politicians in the former East German regime were able to almost seamlessly transition into the capitalist system and quickly become powerful there as well. Unlike after WWII during the Nuremberg Trials, after the fall of the Berlin Wall nobody in East Germany was prosecuted. That was a conscious choice to speed up reunification and not open up a gigantic can of worms. There are a lot of scars and secrets in people’s pasts. The Berlin Wall is still very much in people’s heads, so they don’t mark it on the streets of Berlin. Still, the reunification of West and East Germany was a personally meaningful event, has turned out to be extremely successful all things considered, and Berlin is an emotional symbol to me as a native German. At the same time, I am very suspicious of any kind of patriotism and nationalism.
Many of us have a Berlin Wall in our heads and need internal reunification. Here’s my best advice: Do not dismiss or question anything that you are interested in. By all means, examine it. But then dive in.
I know I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to do this trip. I am still inspired by it, and these days I don’t have the urge to skip out of the country any time soon. And in any case, it probably should be Jeff’s turn next to make a break for it. Seems only fair.
There is great joy in discovering your own backyard
I knew this before I went to Berlin, but even more so this year. I am exploring my own city as I am drawing it both alone and with others, and spin-off projects such as the copper etching venture are developing from simply doing what I love to do.
I travel a lot, but I am also happy exploring my own neighbourhood. It probably doesn’t hurt that I live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
I promise there is only one more “lesson from Berlin” coming, then I am done with the mop-up.Read More
I need to connect with people even though I like to pretend I don’t
I never sketched with other people until I went to Berlin and contacted the Berlin Urban Sketchers, and they welcomed me. They are, by the way, a diverse group, consisting of native Berliners, as well as Berliners by choice from various other countries. My German background had nothing to do with being accepted by this group.
I enjoyed sketching with others so much that I decided I wanted to have a sketching community in Vancouver and that I would have to help create it or it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. I think I have transmitted some of my love for sketching and joy of discovery to the meetup sketching group which I started on February 17, three days after returning to Vancouver. The group currently has over 380 members.
I discovered that there is a special connection that results from sharing the passion of drawing with others. I have met more people this year than ever before. It’s been energizing and made me realize I am more social than I thought I was. Quality time spent with other humans is never wasted. It is even possible that encouraging and inspiring others to be creative is just as important to me now as being creative myself.
And as a bonus, I also appreciate the connection with my husband, my family, and my friends more. I just hope they will remember these heartfelt sentiments when I still don’t get any chores done because I’m out sketching instead.Read More
“Tank you life, tank you love!”
(Marion Cotillard’s Oscar acceptance speech, Best Actress for portraying Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose)
I was on a constant high in Berlin from all the newness and excitement of discovering this city. In hindsight, it felt a bit like being in love — with life, I guess. I have been able to hold on to that feeling of wonder and rejuvenation throughout this whole year. Not every single second of each day, that would be exhausting. But a lot.
P.S. The Jennifer Aniston drawing is really just randomly associated with this post, as are many of the other drawings. Jennifer happened to be on a magazine cover in a waiting room. I have to admit that I’ve always been strangely, specifically impressed with her shapely arms and elbows. Here I’ve obviously tried to capture the spirit of those elbows; their shape, not so much.Read More
I’ve been thinking about the distinction between abstract vs. figurative/realistic art for a while. I’ve decided that neither one really exists. There is no pure abstraction and there is no pure realism.
I like to draw both ways, for the same reasons: Drawing something “abstract” gives the analytical side of my brain a break. Over the last few years, I’ve come to enjoy drawing in a free expression style, in addition to on-location sketching. As I am drawing, I constantly try to surprise myself by doing something I would normally consider “ugly” or “illogical”. The goal is to create something unpredictable and unrecognizable. Of course, free expression drawing can also end up looking like something; I may suddenly draw a snake or a mountain or a sun, or I may start to see something recognizable in whatever I’ve drawn.
And drawing something realistic on location, as in urban sketching, gives my brain the same break. I just use what I see in front of me as a guide and try to trace it with my pen, there is no need to “design” anything. The calming effect on my brain is the same as with my abstract drawings.
When I draw something realistic, based on what I see on the street or when looking at a human model, I very much enjoy the abstract quality of a line, or the repetition of a pattern of hosiery maybe, or the shape of a tree. When I enjoy these elements for their visual qualities alone, they become completely abstract to me. And lines are abstractions to begin with; there are no lines in nature.
On the other hand, when I create an abstract drawing, my brain instinctively tries to associate the resulting shapes with something it already knows. It starts reading interpretations into the drawing. Even a completely minimalist painting like Barney Newman’s Voice of Fire, which has all possible associations removed, by necessity then results in a purely physical interpretation of “three vertical paint strokes, perhaps even done with a cheap paint roller, in about half an hour if sober, a full hour if drunk, on a wooden panel”. The abstract concept behind the art is so far removed from its physical appearance that the art appears to be one with the physical object it consists of. To me, that is as realistic as it ever gets in art. Definitely that is the case for the uninformed viewer, hence all the jokes about “my kid could paint that.”
Here’s my opinion:
All art is abstract in that it consists of shapes and lines on paper or in space which may be interpreted to convey meaning.
All art is realistic in that it consists of shapes and lines on paper or in space which may be interpreted to convey meaning.
P.S. I love Voice of Fire.Read More
Make art like a child
I discovered this before Berlin, but it’s worth mentioning on this sketchblog. Being like a child means not worrying about how the art you are making is relating to art history or what it all means. I want to draw what I feel compelled to draw. I may examine it later, or not.
Whatever lines or shapes you make on a piece of paper, are not going to physically hurt anybody, nor mentally (at least probably not in the long term). So why worry about it and have the urge to label it ugly or beautiful, or even the hope that it pleases you or anyone else?
The most important thing is that you’ve been deeply absorbed in an activity to the point where you’ve turned off your conscious, restless, critical mind, and you have created something unique that did not exist an hour ago. I think that theoretically one should be able to shred it up and let it go as effortlessly as one produced it. The child is always ready to part with what she’s just drawn.
That’s why I like the work of artists like Andy Goldsworthy who create something out of nature and then allow the climate and the seasons to take over and rearrange it/disturb it/decompose it. There is great humility in that.Read More
Not only is the grass not greener in Berlin, but there is no grass
After 24 years as a graphic designer, I had developed a bad attitude towards my work over the last few years. I would feel underchallenged if my clients went for the safest and most obvious idea, or disrespected if they weren’t choosing my preferred approach, or affronted if I felt they behaved unprofessionally. The recession starting in 2008 didn’t help. With many laid-off designers desperate for work, suddenly design clients were shopping around for the cheapest deal and calling all the shots, basically getting away with murder.
But I realized in Berlin that my career as an independent graphic designer/consultant is not so bad after all. I befriended some artists there and learned about their struggles to get by. I saw that they welcomed commercial work in order to support their art, which gave me a new appreciation of my graphic design work and my loyal corporate and institutional clients — clients who pay me professional billable rates and don’t mind when their designer takes off to live in Europe for three months. I was able to make a shift in perception this year where I see art as my main activity and my paid design work as financially supporting my art. I may not be working any less than before, but seeing art vs. work in this different light has been liberating.
I am also getting better at saying no to projects that don’t seem to be either interesting or well-paid (I don’t require both criteria at the same time, although it’s nice when that happens).
So I am not going to give up my design business because I don’t want to feel pressure to make money from art, not that I even could. It would just make me uptight if I felt I had to “deliver” by a certain time, in a certain style, to appease art buyers. It would be much like what I do now, which is to work for clients. It’s OK, maybe even desirable, to be a bit OCD and goal-oriented as a designer, but I don’t want to have to be that person when it comes to art.
And in hindsight, it may have well been my own creative stagnation which caused my professional slump. It’s too easy to blame it on bad clients. Now that I am constantly working on personal creative projects, my client work is more inspired as well. And I got rid of the bad clients, leaving me with only fantastic ones, of course , and more time for art.
P.S. One year ago today I left for Berlin, woohoo!
(Check out the tumblr When You live in Berlin that I borrowed this animated gif from — it’s pretty funny. More so if you’ve lived in Berlin.)
My communication skills could be better
By extension of my first insight, I realized how damaging not just internal criticism is, but also criticism of others. Much of it is unnecessary or unconstructive. Then there’s the natural reaction to criticism: indignation and defensiveness. That builds up walls which impede communication. It is much better to listen attentively, and to be supportive.
And if I get to embrace my quirks, others should be entitled to theirs as well.Read More