Friday, January 30, 2015

Groundhog Day 2015

3" x 4" (image)
5" x 5" (paper) 
Woodcut printed in black oil-based ink on Stonehenge paper. 

This is the stamp for my second annual Groundhog Day card. (Click here to view last year's.) Instead of sending out season's greetings, I wait until the chaos of the holidays is over and send out season's adieu. That said, I don't think we'll be having an early spring this year, which is why this little guy is still fast asleep. 

The phrase is from Shakespeare's Macbeth

Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Year of the Goat"

4" x 4" linoleum cut stamp, printing with black oil-based ink on Stonehenge paper and hand-colored with watercolors.

Lo! the baby opens its mouth
Even when 'tis shown a flower. 

-Kubota Seifu-Jo

I made this stamp for a friend who is having a baby soon! The family of this child possess a great love for the natural world, appreciation for artistic expression, and identify profoundly with certain totems. Coming up with a suitable image was daunting at first as it seemed like such a tall order. But then this simple image of a stalwart goat guarding an egg - a symbol of both fragility and fertility - came to mind. A winter rowan tree expands behind the goat to honor the new child's mother. Green grass and the rising sun signal that winter will soon give way to spring and a new generation.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"In the Tent With Bunny"

I made this for a print exchange: [Baren] Exchange #63. The image is 4.5" x 7.5" and the paper is 7.5" x 10". It is printed in oil-based ink on Sulphite block printing paper. I made an edition of 22 for the exchange and 2 artist's proofs, although I can make more since this is a 2 block print, rather than a reduction.

The theme for this exchange was Moku-hanga (in the spirit of Japanese printmaking.) I spent some time way over-thinking that theme and starting two other sketches and plans for prints before I settled on this one. In my frustration and indecision, I finally just spent some time looking at Moku-hanga print, both from Japanese and International artists, and then followed my intuition. The result is this image of my three-year-old daughter playing with her toy bunny in a tent after a bath.

Admittedly, this is not Moku-hanga in terms of technique and materials because the ink I used is oil-based instead of water-based, and it was rolled on with a brayer instead of painted on. (It simply was not in my budget this holiday season to purchase a whole new set of printmaking inks.) But I think it fits the spirit of Japanese printmaking through the use of vivid colors and translucency, and the subject which makes modern reference to the ukiyo-e (scenes from the floating world) style of wood block printing, with a girl depicted in a domestic scene.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Ammonite (Saxifrage)"

Collograph, paint, collage 
24" x 30"
Oil-based ink, acrylic paint, India ink, and yarn on Stonehenge paper
Artist's Proof

If I ever had a son, my husband and I were planning to name him "Saxifrage" after the character Saxifrage "Sax" Russel in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. Sax Russel is a physicist who leads the development of technologies used to terraform the planet Mars and make it habitable for humans. His character is pitted against the geologist Ann Clayborne, who seeks to preserve Mars's natural state. 

Saxifrage is also a plant that grows on rocks in cold climates. As it grows, it breaks the rocks apart, and the Latin word saxifraga means literally "stone-breaker", from Latin saxum ("rock" or "stone") + frangere ("to break"). 

Monday, January 26, 2015

"Ammonite (His Heart Unraveling)"

24" x 30"
Oil-based ink on Stonehenge paper
Artist's Proof

As with my last collograph, this is dedicated to Kenneth Grahame. The text is taken from his beloved children's book The Wind in the Willows:

On either side of them, as they glided onwards, the rich meadow-grass seemed that morning of a freshness and a greenness unsurpassable. Never had they noticed the roses so vivid, the willow-herb so riotous, the meadow-sweet so odorous and pervading. Then the murmur of the approaching weir began to hold the air, and they felt a consciousness that they were nearing the end, whatever it might be, that surely awaited their expedition.

My aunt looked at this print and immediately the words reminded her of refrigerator magnets. I like that association very much. With these ammonite collographs I am grasping at scraps of materials common to my everyday experience - cardboard, bubble wrap, string - and then constructing an image of ancient creatures never seen alive by human eyes, incomplete and unearthed. With those magnets, we can never find all the words to say what we originally intended. We end up with fragmented statements, that in their incomplete state are more mysterious and poetic, and they seem to be ever more meaningful because we are forced to fill in the empty spaces. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

"Tree No. 26" by Andrea Starkey

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More of Andrea Starkey's work can be found at her websiteblog, and Etsy store. Also check out my post from a year about reflecting on Starkey's Tree No. 15

Due to the diagonal at which the tree's trunk is positioned, and the way its figure is cropped at branch's edges, I cannot help but go back and forth seeing this as both a figure and a landscape. 

I see this trunk as a road. A main road, leading into a teeming society. But maybe, instead, it is the rising body of a giant. The gnarled branches zigzag this way and that to allow residents of this commune access to all their preferred nooks and crannies. A tree, like a city or giant, can grow, can thrive, can deteriorate, and die. From a distance we can't see the mother bird who grieves for her fallen chick. Looking up from the base of the tree, we are lost in golden foliage and crooked paths of shadows that read like the most beautiful calligraphy. 

After I stared at this image for a while, I started singing some of the lyrics from the song "Henrietta's Hair" by Justin Roberts. It can be found on an album marketed to children, but whenever I hear these words song, I end up caught in a state of deeper contemplation about where I fit in this ridiculous world, my responsibilities to and expectations from others. Here are the excerpts that came to mind: 

It's enter if you dare into Henrietta's hair. It's tattered and it's torn, into this life we're born. And there's room enough to share in Henrietta's Hair. Whatever else on earth could it be there for? 

It's started to get a little crowded up there in Henrietta's hair. Several of the residents wanted more than their fair share. So this mosquito in a nest said, "I hate to be a pest, but let's not forget to write our moms lots of letters, and that we are merely guests." 

Henrietta said, "Come one, come all. It doesn't matter if you're short or tall, or skinny or slimy, or just stuck out on the road. Doesn't matter who you know or what you do, everybody has the right to be tangled up in blue, in this heavenly and horrific hairdo. Just don't forget to take off your shoes. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"Sentinel 2" by Katka

Image used with the artist's permission More of Katka's work can be viewed at Blue Chisel Studio, her blog, and storeI wrote about another print of Katka's, Dreams, in 2011. 

In blue finery, 
he keeps watch. Here, 
dazzling plumage is camouflage