Wild fire prints
Record numbers of forest fires raged throughout BC in the summers of 2017 and 2018. Last year, many routes in and out of the interior of the province were closed; one quarter of the population of the Cariboo and Chilcotin regions had to evacuate their homes. This year, the government declared a state of emergency. Although there were two fires more than 100 hectares in size as close as 14 km northwest of Wells, we were fortunate that they did not come our way.
The fires caused major human, animal, environmental and economic upheaval. Our summer gallery sales were at their lowest in close to 23 years due to the reduced number of visitors and the cancellation of a major event. The tension took a toll on everyone. But there was a terrible beauty in some of the photographs that documented these fires, and the colour palettes in some of the images that our friend Chris Harris created, as well as a serendipitous monoprint test, inspired me to print two small editions with variations in colour.
While setting up a miniature Northern Lights print (see below), I came across an old test print with an orange background and a warm, streaky rectangle on top, with a gold texture overlay. When I tested my dark green-black ink for the black spruce silhouette image on top of these colours, instead of on top of a glowing night sky, I immediately saw the potential for a fire print.
I created two new stencils for tree silhouettes in landscape and vertical formats in order to explore more composition options. By loading several distinct ink colours onto the screen every few prints, I was able to generate a range of backgrounds of fiery, smokey skies. Then I printed a wrinkly gold texture on top that faded out to clear at the bottom, and finally, the trees.
Printing “Wildfire I” and “Wildfire II” was a very exciting process. I’ve also enjoyed the responses of visitors, many of whom have had their own wild fire stories to tell. All are all 10 x 15 cm = 4 x 6 inches.
Northern lights prints that glow in the dark
When I was growing up, my family had a coastal seascape painting by Irving Sinclair with a black light mounted above it. At night, we’d switch on the light and the moon and stars would glow, as well as some of the wave crests crashing into the shore! I was fascinated and spent hours looking at the way Sinclair applied paint to canvas, used light, shadow, and tonality. He gave me some oil paint on an old palette once so I could fool around with the colours. I still remember the smell and the texture.
I had forgotten about that black light painting until I began to work this past winter on two new prints. Glow-in-the-dark ink mixed into the sky means the northern lights actually glow if viewed with the lights out! (Or with a black light.) It’s fun to print northern imagery this way. And they’re all a bit different, because of the way the different inks interact, and because I used a phthalocyanine kind of blue for the smaller, vertical print, and an ultramarine blue for the larger, horizontal print. Here are a few samples:
May, 2018: some miniature versions:
Every two years I enjoy the challenge of working within the constraints of the Biennial International Miniature Print Exhibition (BIMPE): a maximum print size of 10 x 15 cm (4 x 6 inches). Silhouettes of the black spruce trees of Canada’s boreal forest continue to fascinate me, so I thought I’d print some miniatures to continue my northern lights series (see the Landscape Prints tab on this site).
To create a sense of the electrical nature of the aurora, fleeting night clouds and shifting light, I used two film positives made with a wrinkly, textured photocopy toner wash. Looks like a classic tusche wash texture from a stone lithograph!
Here’s how the stencils print with metallic inks:
Assorted silkscreened landscape prints