Sunday, May 15, 2016

Playing With Pigments With Artist Lisa Myers

Ottawa Art Gallery Spring Workshop

I spent the afternoon at the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) in the spring workshop "Playing With Pigments" with artist Lisa Myers

Artist Lisa Myers

Artist Lisa Myers talking about her art exhibit at the Ottawa Art Gallery before the workshop.

I was really excited about meeting artist Lisa Myers because I had read about her work before attending the workshop. Lisa is of Anishinaabe ancestry from Shawanaga and Beausoleil First Nation.

I was eager to hear more about how her creativity emerges from the intersection of geography, memory and food.

Lisa  gave us a tour through the Ottawa Art Gallery before the workshop started and talked about the current exhibit  "ALL THAT YOU TOUCH" featuring artists  Autumn Chacon, Jeneen Frei Njootli, Ursula Johnson, Jaime Koebel, Lisa Myers, Melody McKiver, Gail Tremblay.

Lisa is a trained chef and artist. I LOVE that she considers "walking and cooking as research methods for (her) art making".


The story of Lisa's grandfather escaping residential school and surviving on blueberries.

Blueberries are used in Lisa's work and she spoke about how blueberries were metaphors for her for so many things:
  • When she strains the blueberries for printmaking to remove the skins and seeds, it's a metaphor for assimilation, taking away language and traditions and colonization. 
  • The "blueprints" metaphor in that the things we witness in our life are "blueprints" to who we are today.
  • The metaphor in the blueberry woodblock roller pin print of her father escaping residential school is that a persons movements leave a stain behind. This "stain left behind" could also apply to migrations.
Printmaking With Natural Pigments

Exploring the plants that provide pigment for art
Pictured below, Lisa sets up the supplies just before the printmaking begins. There were bowls and spoons and colanders and strainers etc

"The kitchen section is my art supply store"

Lisa said, "The kitchen section is my art supply store"
The Basics

There is SO, SO much to know about Lisa's process so I will not in any way try to explain that here in any detail. (There could be a separate blog post on "mordants" alone) Instead, here are some key points:
  • To prepare the fruit pigments (blueberries and raspberries) they were first frozen, then boiled for twenty minutes then run through a sieve.
  • The substrates we were using were paper, canvas, silk and wool. (Canvas, because it is cellulose, does not take the die well. Silk and wool is much better)
  • Acidity has an impact: The fruit pigment will change depending on the paper. For example on Stonehenge paper (cotton rag) the fruit pigment will be much bluer than on acidic newsprint where it will become very pink
  • Acidity has an impact: Vinegar and baking soda will change the colour of the fruit pigment: vinegar it will turn red; baking soda it will turn blue.
  • The fruits we used at the workshop for printing were blueberries and strawberries.
  • The vegetables we used for the workshop were parsley, beets, beet leaves, red onions and red cabbage
  • The printmaking methods we used were: screen printing, linocutting, wooden rolling pin printing
My Turn To Experiment

We had three hours to experiment with Lisa. I decided to do a linocut because there were plenty Speedball® Speedy-Carve™ Blocks on the table.

I chose to use the blueberries as a motif and a spoon because of the beautiful story Lisa told us about the "dish with one spoon" treaty. Known officially as the  Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, it is an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy and Confederacy of the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes

Yet another of Lisa's beautiful metaphors with the dish representing the land and one spoon meaning that we all will share. For this reason I added the spoon to my motif.

"Blueberry Dish With One Spoon"

I then rolled on the blueberry pigment and to my surprise, the easy carve surface repelled the blueberry pigment and then it ran into all of the crevices. I made the print anyways and below is the result.

"Blueberry Dish With One Spoon"first print

I took a ghost print (a second print following the original print without reapplying pigment)  that turned out very interesting. I was able to colour in the ghost print later with raspberry pigment using a wooden spoon. It is my favourite print of the day (so far).

"Blueberry Dish With One Spoon" (ghost print)
Cold-Bundled Eco-Prints 

At the end of the workshop we all prepared cold-bundled Eco Prints (process found on page 154 in book below "Eco Colour" by India Flint) on wool and silk.

We dampened our silk and wool swatches and then added various materials (cabbage, red onion, parsley etc) and then rolled the fabric up very tightly securing it with twine and rubber bands

The results of my cold-pressed bundle will not be revealed for another three days and the OAG has asked the participants to email photos of the results to them.

My wool cold-pressed eco-bundle on the left

Lisa demonstrating cold-pressed eco-bundles

We used canvas, silk and wool
Results of My Cold-pressed Eco-bundles

I opened my two cold-pressed eco-bundles on Friday morning after six days of being wrapped up tightly with elastic bands and twine. The results were so interetsing. The silk results were better in terms of the colours than the wool, but this may have been an error that I made in not wetting the wool enough?

I photographed four views of the wool and silk results recording both the front and back.

Linen (front)

Linen (front) close-up

Linen (back)

Linen (back) close-up

Wool (front)

Wool (front) clos-ep

Wool (back)
 I plan to set these fabrics using an iron and then use them in another piece of art that I will write about in another post. (Will be looking for inspiration at mixed-media artist Jane LaFazio's website

I really enjoyed this day and would love to experiment more with creating natural pigments for art on paper and fabric.

I am grateful for the Ottawa Art Gallery for hosting these FREE workshops that give us access to such great artists like Lisa Myers.

I am also grateful to Lisa Myers for sharing her art, her knowledge, her process with all of us

 Reference Books
Two books were referenced during this workshop:

Other Links

If you are curious about this method of printmaking, you can use flowers and create so many things, here are some links to check out:

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