Sunday, December 14, 2014

"Mount Rainier in Winter" by Yoshida Tōshi

Yoshida Tōshi was the son of another noteworthy Japanese printmaker, Hiroshi Yoshida. I wrote about two of the father's prints early this year: Above the Clouds and Goshikibara.

This is a quiet, stately work with muted colors. I stand at attention and listen. The wind is barely audible. The potential for catastrophe is palpable. Maybe an avalanche, or terrible freeze. I cannot muster any fear of it, for what purpose would fear of a sudden downpour cause in a butterfly flying freely across a wide open field? Majesty is always before us, death, always just behind.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Turtle Collographs By My 5-Year-Old

 My daughter was hanging out in my studio today while I was printing some proofs. She wanted to do some printing. Usually I just give her one of my old blocks to play around with. But I had a pile of cut up cardboard and I've been doing collographs with middles schoolers lately, so I had her make her own plate to print from.

She drew a turtle on a piece of cardboard, and I cut it out and taped it to another piece of cardboard. I'm pretty impressed with how well proportioned the little guy is - see the head, tail, large claws in the front and two smaller claws in the back? He's obviously some kind of aquatic turtle.

She printed with magenta and black water-based block printing ink. One of the prints turned out all faded (the ink was drying) so she drew all over with pastel pencils and markers to make it look like he was a shadow swimming under the water.

I really like these, and I think I might make the print for my next print trade based on these.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Screen Print Studies of Nautilus and Ammonite

I spent another weekend with Mr. C. W. Brooks in his studio at the University of Maryland. This time he talked me into trying something new: screen printing! The process is so antithetical to what I normally do with woodcuts. No laborious carving, no grain to battle against or yield to, no splinters - bah.

Just to get started, I made two studies comparing one of my beloved, extinct ammonites to one of its living cousins, a nautilus. I want to eventually develop them into characters for a picture book (that's all I'm sharing about that right now.)

If I go back and try more screen printing, I'll probably attempt some landscapes. Those flat fields of color produced by the process just seem so far away. Another thought I had was to look at a lot of prints and wall hangings by Inuit artists because their unique ways of depicting figures in space lends itself well to screen printing.

Mr. Brooks was also screen printing. He looks good in blue.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


I made this for yet another exchange, the 5th Annual Day 2 Day Print Exchange. It's yet another ammonite fossil. I had fun making this print for the last exchange, and wanted to do another on black paper with white ink. I tried to loosen up the linework and make it look a little more like a soft organ, as if this thing that is only a fragment of a creature long-dead somehow has renewed life (hence the title.) 

This image is 3" x 4" and the paper is 6" x 9". It is printed in white, oil-based ink on black, Stonehenge paper. So far I made 1 edition of 14. 

"Writing stories was not easy. When they were turned into words , projects withered on the paper and ideas and images failed. How to reanimate them? Fortunately, the masters were there, teachers to learn from and examples to follow. Flaubert taught me that talent is unyielding discipline and long patience ." -Mario Vargas Llosa 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"Water Shake" by Leslie Evans

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More prints by Leslie Evans can be viewed and purchased at Sea Dog Press

A moment comes, when burdened by so much precipitation, action is taken. Muscles engage and send the body into so much convulsion that the weight of wetness is driven out in all directions. In the center of the sailing mists emerges the silhouette of a being reborn.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"Late Autumn" by Gordon Mortensen

Yesterday we had our first snow of the season, so it's a white Thanksgiving. Even though winter is my favorite season, I always get a melancholy feeling this time of year because the autumn foliage is so beautiful, but now the leaves are turning the color of mud, then falling to the ground, getting mashed up, and literally turning into mud.

Before winter is officially upon us here in Pennsylvania, here's one of Gordon Mortensen's woodcut reductions. Mortensen's prints are jaw-droppingly amazing in terms of the technical challenges; he often does dozens of layers of color and spends months making a single edition. For me, the result of his painstaking process is that his images of nature seem utterly frozen. Otherwise fleeting moments, here preserved for all time.

If you want to learn more about Mortensen and find his limited edition prints for sale, here's a link to his profile at Davidson Galleries.

I am both drawn to and a little frightened of this place. Are there monsters lurking in the hazy, purple distance? Are there creepy crawlies teeming beneath the smattering of golden leaves? Do equally breathtaking wonders lies beyond the forest's edge, or perhaps there is nothing more than a brightly lit oblivion. What sounds would my steps make if I dare walk across? A crunch? A squoosh? Or eerie silence, as if I were a phantom in a world no longer my own? Like a cake in the bakery's display window, I desire a taste, but am loath to disturb its aesthetic perfection.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Collographs in Acrylic Paint on Canvas

I did these three studies (each is approximately 12" x 18", acrylic on unmounted canvas) as examples for a project students from Solis Cohen Elementary school are doing with me as a Visiting Artist-In-Residence.

They have already seen examples of my work and done collograph and white line woodcut printmaking in class, and now they are working on their big project, which will be a 21' x 9' wall hanging of a world atlas. The wall hanging is broken up into four equal panels. They are finishing up using the grid transfer method to draw a basic outline of the continents onto the four panels.

Next will be painting in the backgrounds with acrylic paint, making collograph stamps with imagery inspired by patterns found in artwork around the world.

For these three studies, I drew a grid (each square being 3" x 3") and drew the same shape (an ammonite, just because I like ammonites.) Then I painted in the background and foreground areas (the left and middle one I painted in solid colors, the third uses a two-tone checkerboard pattern.) I made four 3" x 3" collograph stamps using chipboard, yarn, and craft foam, and then printed them onto the canvas by painting on the acrylic paint with a brush and pressing the stamp onto the canvas firmly with my hands. To prevent the background and foreground prints from overlapping, I masked off areas by laying down paper before pressing down the stamp.

I also did black outlines for two and no outline for one just to see how it looked. The students' wall hanging should be finished before winter break, and I'll post an image of the final work to this blog at that time.