Dogwood season

A few years ago I passed the birthday that marked a significant turning point: having spent more years of my life north of the Mason-Dixon Line than on what my family of origin would consider the proper side of that demarcation.

Now, there are certainly things I miss about the south. I definitely miss seeing my mom and my sister and her family, which I only get to do every year and a half or so. And I miss certain important local shrines. Like this:

And this:

(First Child and remain in training and in a state of perpetual readiness for Prince’s–they will only serve the “hot” level of chicken to people they know personally, a list on which we aspire to be.)

Or this:

But I love the north and my home is here. I have even finally adjusted (more or less) to the fact that my adopted New England home doesn’t have the usual seasons. Summer we have, fall we have in abundant glory, and winter we have. And have. And have. But instead of what I think of as spring, New England has things like mud season. And rain season.

Right now, two weeks after Tennessee had theirs (I know, I was there for the draggle-tail end of it) we are having dogwood season. I don’t know where dogwoods originated or what their true origins are, but I will always think of them as southern, so whenever I see one it gladdens my heart to be in the company of another transplant.

Yesterday I was driving home from some vitally important errand, and took the road less traveled by instead of the quick road home. It had just rained, and the trunks of the many dogwoods I passed on this quieter road were a deep, saturated black from their wetness. The sky was a deep gray (more rain coming) and their greeny-white blossoms stood out against this darkness as if lit from within.

I came home, got out the Speedball carving tools, and carved this stamp (I did this yesterday, okay? so even though I didn’t actually post until today, I was making art):

I have mentioned before that my favorite carving medium is Mastercarve, and I do have the tiniest bit of it on hand. I’m saving that for a different stamp (which I’ll post later today, thus making up for my failure to post anything yesterday–right?). Besides, though I’m not quite as fond of using Speedball’s Speedy Stamp (aka “the pink stuff”), I had plenty of that, and it works well here. I find Mastercarve to have a smoother surface, whereas the Speedy Stamp has a very subtle linen-like texture to it.  As you may be able to tell here, that gave a nice quality to the bare trunk when I printed it:

I am not a stamping expert, and I have a limited craft budget, so I tend to use what stamp inks the gods of penury send my way. I’m often surprised by differences in quality among different brand names almost completely unrelated to cost. I have, for instance, a set of very nifty stackable stamp inks sold by a famous artsy craftsy individual who shall be naMeleSs (cough cough). I paid a pretty penny for them, they are beautiful colors, and, frankly, I don’t like them much. Applied lightly, they leave bare patches. Applied heavily (something I like to do), they bleed a weird, oily halo around the stamped images.

On the other hand, I have a whole bunch of little square stamps from the dollar bins at Target that say “Studio g” on them, and I love these and have them in many colors, including a nice gold, which is hard to find.

I must have 5 different kinds of black stamp ink, ranging from dollar store office supply pads to sexier brand names. I think this tree image would look nice in almost any of them, but different in each one–must try to remember to do a comparison some day and post it here. But there was no question that for the wet tree look I was after, I needed my Stazon jet black solvent ink pad. Just the look I was after–a rich, dark black.

For the next step (we are talking about dogwood trees, after all), I use a few dabs of Chinese white tube watercolor from the discount store, applied with the broad face and with the very edge of an ordinary pencil eraser, to approximate the frothy, lacy look of the blossoms:

I think I’ll stamp some more of these and use them as ‘happy spring” cards for my friends–on both sides of the Line.


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