PORT BICKERTON – A simple child’s pallet of watercolours was set on the table along with a rectangular sheet of plexiglass, two paintbrushes and some paper towel. That along with imagination was the only supplies necessary for the monoprint workshop held at the Port Bickerton Community Centre on August 3. That and the quiet yet skillful instruction of this year’s Artist-in-Residence at the Port Bickerton Lighthouse Cecil Day.
Day, who originally hails from Maine but now calls Port Maitland, Nova Scotia home, has been working as a printmaker for decades; and it shows. Her ease with the medium and her exploration of subject matter is evidence of the fact that she has long moved past the phase of novice in this art form.
A room of eager, and some very adept, first-time print makers set to work painting a scene on the plexiglass shortly after 10 a.m. Subjects were chosen from personal pictures brought by the workshop attendees or supplied in art books and calendars that were provided by Wilda Kaiser the Director of the Artist-in-Residence program for the Port Bickerton Lighthouse Association, who also took part in the workshop.
Once the original painting was dry, sometimes with the aid of a hairdryer, making the meeting room sound more like a salon than an art workshop, Day instructed the novice print makers on the monoprint process. First soaking the print paper in a bath of water, drying it to a suitable dampness between layers of towelling and finally, laying the paper on top of the plexiglass painting and applying even pressure via an everyday rolling pin.
The results were surprising to most; the texture of the paper brought out something beyond that of the original painting and the act of printing, rather than painting, created a pleasing edge to the work. That is something that Day said drew her to print making over painting; the defined edge. “I like edges and they come naturally in prints,” she said in an interview after the workshop.
Day’s career in art started in her youth and she pursued it through her university years earning a BA in painting at Indiana University and an MFA in painting from Washington University. Family life took her to St. John’s Newfoundland where she took up printmaking with St. Michael’s Printshop; and she’s been working in that medium ever since.
Her career in this medium has spanned from the late 1970s to the present. She has taught courses in print making at the Yarmouth Arts Regional Centre since the early 1980s and has had many exhibitions. Her work follows a theme through a series where she examines the subject through the production of numerous images. In the past she focused on traps used in the fishing industry, currently she is working on a series exploring the undergrowth in the forest, “Trying to show the way things grow in various stages.”
The Artist-in-Residence program was particularly useful in this endeavour she said as “Port Bickerton has a whole other flora,” as compared to her home in Southern Nova Scotia.
The residency is also a haven from the hustle and bustle of summer when family and friends are often visiting the family home. “To have two weeks where I think of nothing but my work is luxurious.”
Day typically starts the morning at the lighthouse with a walk and works on large monoprints from what her artist’s eye has captured. She said that when in grad school she was dissuaded from working in prints but if she were ever to do something with pattern, “now is the time.”
Referring to the workshop, Day said she was impressed by some of the work that was produced, and she is also impressed “that a community this small can maintain a facility (the Port Bickerton Lighthouse and Light Keepers cottage) so well.”
“It’s just what I need right now.”
To see samples of Cecil Day’s art work visit her website at http://cecilday.ca.