Canmore railway history inspires

Canmore, Alberta came into being thanks to the railway, like so many towns and cities in Western Canada. In the 1880s, railroad construction allowed many towns and villages to establish themselves as the railway progressed from Canada’s east to west coast. Today, the railway still runs through Canmore, shipping grain and other goods from coast to coast.

LINDA COTE-Todays Train Canmore

The view from my art studio where I often hear the pleasing rattle of trains as they go by my building several times a day.

In fact, our town was named in 1884 by Canadian Pacific Railway director Donald Smith after Malcolm III of Scotland, whose nickname was Canmore. The name Canmore was said to come from the Celtic meaning of “great head” or “big head”. More about the town history, and the railway connection can be found here.

Our local history champion, the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre, has a fabulous collection of old photographs. Among them are fantastic railway photos, mining shots, old Main Street photos, and an incredible collection of Canmore’s earliest sports teams. It’s a treasure-trove of inspiration.

LINDA COTE-beginning stages

At the Museum, I found a photo of a woman sitting at the old railway station in Canmore. I loved the lines, her sense of peaceful waiting for the train, and the vista of the surrounding mountains in the background.

History always inspires me. To me, it is so important to remember where we’ve come from. My grandparents were always happy to tell me old family stories, and I was wise enough — though I did not know it at the time — to write these stories down.

Although my family has no historical connection to the railway, the trains were one option for my family to travel to their beloved Rocky Mountains. I have a fond memory of riding to Banff by rail in my teens. My mom, brother and I would board the train with our bikes at the train station in downtown Calgary, take the beautiful hour ride west to Banff, hop off, ride around town on our bikes all day, then come back home to Calgary on the train at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, this “small jaunt” service does not run any longer. As an aside, I dream of some day taking the Rocky Mountaineer train west to Vancouver. But, I digress…

Here is the story of bringing a historical photo to back to life using a relief print method. Follow me on the journey, and maybe later you will find me blogging about doing that coastal train holiday!

LINDA COTE-Train SketchIt all begins with a sketch to work out the lines and the tonal gradations of the final piece. Because this print will be one color (black) I need to create depth with lines and white space.

LINDA COTE-Canmore train print

I carve the town name in the side of the building first thing. Of course, the lettering is backwards to make the final print read the right way around.

LINDA COTE-first cuts sky

Carving the clouds and sky. Many fine lines leave the sky looking lighter than other areas of the print.

LINDA COTE-carved block

The block carved.

LINDA COTE-first inking

The first inking: I love this stage! So exciting to see what has been carved. The black ink is my instant feedback for how the final print will look.

LINDA COTE-pressing paper

The first test print is made. For this run, I have chosen a very thin printmaking paper (bleached mulberry) and you can see the print through the paper on the wet block. I often use a thicker paper that makes it difficult to see the image when you’re printing, so this one is fun to work with.

LINDA COTE-pulling print2

Hand-pulling the first print off the block.

LINDA COTE-pulling print

Another print is hand-pulled: a view from the opposite side of the block.

LINDA COTE-prints hanging in studio

I take a break part way through the run to photograph the prints hanging up on my studio clothesline to dry. Since these are only one color, they should be dry in several days, but to avoid smudging I will wait a week or more before signing them.

LINDA COTE-prints hanging

I love the sight of prints on the line!

LINDA COTE-"The Wait" Limited Edition Art Print

“The Wait”, Linocut Art Print (6″ x 10″). 31 prints in this Limited Edition series.

This Limited Edition Art Print will be available for purchase directly from me, plus at the gift shop of the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre. A framed print will also be in Banff’s Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies “Trains and Mountains” show which opens on July 13 and runs through to September 3, 2013.

4 responses to “Canmore railway history inspires

    • Thanks, Elaine! It was a challenge to make sure all the lines “lined up” but so much fun to push beyond what I had done before. Using lines to get gradations was a bit new….

      • I did a print like that once – a self portrait for college. It was fun to try different variations of line to get the form of the face and for it not to be so flat. A great experience.

        This is a beautiful print Linda.

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