Thursday, October 31, 2013

Butterflies in Black and White (Student Work)

These are three images printed from woodblocks carved by middle school students enrolled in SNAP through the Wagner Free Institute for Science. I've been working with kids doing the visual art component of the program, after school at Meade Elementary. It was only a 6 week session, and I worked with the kids for a total of 6 hours. Not a lot of time to teach kids how to carve and print wood blocks. When these three kids didn't make it to class the day of printing, I just had to print them myself to see what they looked like on paper. So glad I did. These are some pretty freaky-awesome butterflies!

In My Yard: "Garden Spider"

Black ink with hand coloring with watercolors
3" x 4" (image)

This is the second in a series for a single sheet handmade book called In My Yard. The idea is to submit it to the exhibition Ritual taking place in December in Philadelphia. 

I think I found a nice balance between light and dark in this one. A bit busy and lots of chaotic texture to give the sense of having to focus and squint to see the spider and web, but she is still clearly there, being highlighted by her yellow, striped legs. My favorite part is how the silhouette of leaves in the bottom left quadrant suggest a shadow cast by the spider. 

Happy Halloween! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Joshua Green's "Bats"

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More of Joshua Green's work can be viewed at his website Subjective Designs.

One bat with huge ears like a rabbit seems to scream as it flies. The second bat, furry like a rat, hangs upside down with his wings out, as if startled by his companion. Their long, skeletal fingers bend and curve like branches, and the webs in between them twist and wrinkle like bark. The sky is made busy with the movement of countless bits of debris, fog, small bugs, who knows what else. It is amazing that we even catch a glimpse of these winged rodents, much less a good, hard, and detailed look. But there they are, osculating, but clearly discernible. Oh, these creatures that  prowl in the night and seem like myths, absurd chimeras only based on truths. But no, these beasties are real!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Self Portrait" by Oscar Guajardo

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More or Oscar Guajardo's work can be viewed on his Etsy store.

We all feel this way
Sometimes, and if we're lucky
The fire quickly dies.

Monday, October 28, 2013

In My Yard: "Millipede in Hand"

Black ink with hand coloring with watercolors
3" x 4" (image)

This is the first in a series for a single sheet handmade book called In My Yard. The idea is to submit it (and hopefully 2 others) to the exhibition Ritual taking place in December in Philadelphia.

I like that it looks like a child's hand, not only in relation to the size of the millipede, but in the finger proportions. And I mostly like that the lines to mark certain shadows in the fingers mirror the segments of the millipede. The color here is too orange. Needs more pink. But this was just a tester. In fact, some of the black ink bled because I printed this proof in water-based ink and then watercolored over it. I'll do the final version with oil based ink.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

"Companions" by Paul Kidder

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More of Paul Kidder's prints can be viewed at the Etsy store KG Crafts, where he sells his work alongside that of Katie Galbraith.

Sitting together to stay warm. You are right here - my tail encircles you, my blackness embossed by your snowy pelt - but I am distant. I am gazing in the same direction that my whiskers, paw, and tail reach. I am obsessed with something which has nothing to do with you. You, sleeping so content and oblivious to my state of mind. Yet I am strengthened by the heat of your body, calmed by the vibrations of your purr. I am not thinking of you, and yet your presence has caused me to hesitate. Despite the heat we create, I am frozen, entranced by the object of my obsession, and anchored down by intimacy.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Junior" by Alexis Mackay

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More of Alexis Mackay's work can be viewed at her blog and Etsy store.

He's a bit prickly. Not quite as dangerous as a porcupine. More like a hedgehog. Prickly, but still cuddly. Cuddly, except when he looks at me like that; hunger tinged with scorn. I can practically hear his stomach rumble. He knows I didn't have anything better to do, yet here he waits in silence. And glares.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Mother and Child" by Holiday Anderson

Image posted with the permission of the artist. View more work by Holiday Anderson at her Etsy store, Lady Holiday.

Her hands are large, and the baby is so small. Her solid arms dwarf his swaddled, egg-like body in their embrace. The floral pattern on the nursery wall is airy and passive. The blossoms float in even separation from each other. Cheery, content, parallel play. The tulips on mother's dress are another matter altogether. Their long, green stems crawl up like vines, gripping the curves of her body, while spiky blossoms eagerly reach out to connect and contain. Mother kisses the top of baby's head, and in this gesture completes a three-quarter enclosure of protective affection around her sleeping bundle. He will never be this cozy again.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Distant Sunset, Colorful Hill" by Hiroto Uratani

There are many roads, and they all go around and around and around. We can look off into the distance, but we can never be out there. We can wonder at what might exist out there in the various shades of atmosphere, but we can never discover it. Even when we move forward, get closer, the particles disperse, the color goes transparent, and we are one again Nowhere Special. Better to take inventory of what is beneath our feet at the moment. Bend down so as to shove our hands into the ground and feel the collective movements of a million grains of sand.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Nesting (Tengmalm Owls)"

9" x 9" (image)
Oil based inks on cream colored Stonehenge paper

Halfway through making this I felt better about it than I do now. But that seems to happen a lot. Especially doing printmaking the way I do it - in layer after layer, and so much left to chance and happy (or unhappy) accidents.

So much subtlety is drowned out by the blue that is just too much of a contrast with the browns. But without that contrast, something else would be lost, such as my favorite part which is the small bird emerging from the shadow of the hole. Argh. The finished product hardly ever feels right.

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Crow-berry" by Yumi Kawaguchi

Image posted with the permission of the artist. View more work by wildlife artist Yumi Kawaguchi at her online store Dogwood Studio Alaska.

The berries, plump and sweet, are ready for picking. We must get there before the birds steal them all away. They'll eat pretty much anything, especially as winter nears, and even despite the fact that these berries resemble their own young. The ravens look so austere, like proud parents guarding over their offspring. But no, tiny eyes and beaks mean nothing to these wise and unsentimental omnivores; the berries are food.

Thankfully it is still warm. The bright sunlight is reflected by a seat of orange foliage. Orange and black; funny how the colors of decay can be so rollicking. Particularly when set against a clear, blue sky. I feel almost as if I'm at a circus, surrounded by colorful costumes and banners and gleeful songs, where the animals solemnly endure a tortured existence for our amusement. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Ravens Guard the Sun Owl" by Kenojuak Ashevak

This is another stonecut by Kenojuak Ashevak. I first wrote about a print of hers four months ago. Since I've been on an owl kick, I simply had to come back to this artist, who depicted so many fantastic owls and owl-like creatures.

Wherever you stand near him, you cannot block the view; he is so much taller. And anyway, those feathers on his headdress will reach out and club anyone who gives us any trouble. The raven I see in double vision talks talks talks, but to whom? The owl stands spread. Vulnerable, as a large target. And yet it is also the position he takes when swooping down on prey. I'm not sure if he's about to embrace or disembowel. Isn't there always a little bit of both sides? Aren't our best assets our worst flaws? Don't we all have a little heaven and hell?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Chizuko Yoshida's Butterflies

There are more from this artist's series, but here are six that I thought went well together. The butterflies are just about gone, along with the summer, and so I'm feeling a bit sentimental. This always happens when I see more things dying than blooming every time I step outside. The symbolic meaning of butterflies tends to be connected to metamorphosis, but the most profound symbolism they possess for me is as a symbol of life itself, in that they are a delicate, transient, and exquisitely beautiful creature. Whenever I see one I always feel I'm not getting enough. They move to quickly to examine for very long. Of course we can photograph or kill and preserve them for study, but of course that's not the same if what one is after is an aesthetic experience with another living being.

I love looking at these prints as a set of variations on a theme. In these thick clutters of fluttering life, rarely do any individuals stand out. Even when individuals do stand out (see the larger pair in the fourth print down or the largest blue and black one in the fifth print down) they are still integrated with the rest of their community. I look at these and I feel closer to the rest of humanity. I feel both strength and anonymity found in large numbers. It is a sort of quiet loudness.

From these images I also feel the emphasis on seasonal change through the soft gradations of color and varied arrangements. The first image feels like the rosy blossoms of early spring pushing their way up as the warm heat of the sun radiates from above. The second image points me to the most grey of foggy days. In the third image I feel blown back by an explosion of life as spring finds its stride.

In the fourth image I feel the heat of summer, the sweat of lovers in bed without the benefit of air conditioning. In the fifth image I feel the butterflies themselves are fading away as autumn, that harbinger of death, strolls in. The last image below feels like a pile of debris in the cool winter, coming alive. I am reminded of the character Marjory the Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock, and her endless offers of sage advice to those in a predicament: Bring me your troubles, bring me your pain, bring me your woe. Somehow butterflies ease the suffering.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Black Capped Chickadee" by Anna See

Image posted with the permission of the artist. View more of Anna See's artwork and designs or purchase unique, handmade gifts at her website.

I am caught between two worlds. First a world of simple, flat, geometric design, and next a world of chaotic scratches, ethereal textures, and living/breathing beings. Stylish handbags wrestling with elusive squirrels. Or are they making love? I know the sky is not red, and yet red is what I see. And it is a cheery shade at that!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Night" by Helene Tupke Grande

Three fat, feathered meatballs roost on a tree branch. One has spoken, and the other two have listened. Wide awake in their conference, our night is their day. This scene appears grainy with shadows made even as if seen through a screen or lens. We are watching them from a distance. A cool breeze passes through the open spaces between scrawny tree trunks and naked branches. The three round fellows smile.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Great Horned Owl" by Helen Brooks

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More of Helen Brooks's stunning prints, mostly inspired by nature, can be viewed on her online gallery and Etsy store.

At close range the multitude of tiny feathers pointed this way and that can seem like rock, meticulously sculpted by eons of erosion. The meandering contour lines around his three-quarter-view stance enhance this perception. And like stone, he is motionless. This is efficiency and camouflage. Although to the attentive onlooker, the huge menacing eyes and sharp talons give him away. He is a swift and beautiful killing machine, waiting to strike.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Samurai House in Autumn" by Noboru Yamataka

Dying is not death. In fact, some live life most fully, mostly colorfully, most gorgeously, while in the throes of decay. In autumn, every tree is a bouquet. I entreat you, step out of the shadowy interior, drink in the cool, crisp air, rainbow of foliage, and magnificent blue sky, then bow low in respect.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Shepherd Boy

"Shepherd Boy" (Dedicated to Samson)
8.5" x 11"
Oil-based inks on handmade Japanese paper

I made this for my cousin's new baby boy, Samson. His mom mentioned that she likes lambs, which made me think of both actual shepard boys and little kids with their stuffed animals. I wanted to make an image that plays in the space between pretend and real life. My favorite thing about this finished image is that I didn't overwork it. I didn't try to cram too much in. It's just the little boy with his stuffed sheep superimposed over a wolf howling at the moon. I also like that it has the little kid subject matter, but the color palette is fairly masculine instead of baby-cutesy pastels.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Ship Composition" and "Sailboat" by Hermann Stammeshaus

One boat sits in a harbor, neat against a symmetrical arrangement of purple and gold architecture. Another slices through turbulent waters that screech against a darkly smudged sky. One seems to have the weight and stability of buildings, while the other seems as fragile as a paper crane. The first has either arrived or not yet taken off, while the second is in the middle of an uncertain journey. Where do we find ourselves, buried, motionless within a pile of pretty ideals, or out there taking on the dangerous world?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

"Creek In Evening" by Jennifer Worsley

If you enjoy this image, definitely check out more of Jennifer Worsley's woodcuts on her website here.

The great deciduous trees bend toward the stream, and as I move further away, their elegant bodies, those stately trunks, slip into the vapor.

Water, as reflective as a silver teapot, zigzags around purple rocks and impenetrable weeds. Trees rearrange patches of light as their branches sway in the wind. Everything moves.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Mary At the Lake" by Walter J. Phillips

I am watching her watch something else. Her warm, peach skin stands out against endless amethyst. A bush rises up like a defense, and behind it her body disintegrates. Such senses - her gaze, hearing, smelling - stem from her face. That wistful expression. Beyond her the still and purple lake becomes inexplicably vast.