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

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Fukugawa Susaki and Jūmantsubo" by Utagawa Hiroshige

A great eye overlooks the sea, the water's edge, the expanse of land that recedes into a soft mountain range. A great wing envelopes the scene, taking ownership of all that can be seen. In one sense, this world is great, so great, that every small being within it is diminished to the status of a non-entity. It is only up here in the sky, up close to the overlooking eye, that personality counts. But in another sense, this world is small, and precious, like a pebble found on a beach, slipped in a pocket, kept as a memento, and decades later still caressed and regarded as the most precious of objects. From up here, every tree is a bristle around the mouth of the Great Bird. Every wave, a feather's vane.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Ammonite (Traveler's Return)"

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

This is dedicated to Kenneth Grahame. The text is taken from his beloved children's book The Wind in the Willows:

Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands tugging all one way.

With this image, I started with the idea of juxtaposing an expressive depiction of an ammonite fossil with a sort of love letter to the long-deceased creature. But as I searched for the necessary words, my mind turned to a dramatic performance of Grahame's book I saw with my daughter a year ago. I think I intuitively connected this piece with that story because - as with many children's stories - all the animals in those stories are really people with animal traits being used symbolically. Also, the spiral is  such a simple arrangement that appears over and over again not only in nature, but in human creations, and has a universal appeal. Somehow I connected that with a work of literature that while written for children, is the product of a mature, adult mind, and expresses many sentiments universal to the human experience.

Here is home, and we have been gone for so long, it is exhilarating to see it again with what feel like new eyes, and yet also a strange and ethereal experience. It is not really the home we knew before, not just because it has changed, but because we have changed. In this life, we circle around over and over again, but with each roundabout, we are somehow both returning to a place we knew and arriving at a novel destination. It is a paradox of time.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"Hundertwasser 4" by Margaret Rankin

It has been way too long since I wrote about a print by the talented Margaret Rankin. (Last time was in 2010.) This image has been used with the artist's permission. Information about her and links to her online store, blog, Flickr, and Facebook pages can be found here.

I was especially drawn to this image because of my recent interest in ammonites, specifically ammonite fossil fields such as the one pictured below.

Photographs such as the one below feel like images of a mass burial, unearthed. Each fossilized shell is a spiral into infinity, unseen. Immortal, yet extinct; it is an eerie juxtaposition. In a small, strange way, I feel as if sacred ground has been desecrated, some secret, dark knowledge, revealed.

But in Rankin's print, I feel warmth and life. The spirals there tumble and roll, rise and sink, expand and contract. Though they are compartmentalized into rows, some break free, while others dig tunnels, build ladders, or otherwise expand their small place in the world. All seem to move and breath.

The title of her piece is after the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, known for his colorful paintings. As you can see from the example below, Haus im Wind (I), he also had an interest in spirals and bringing inanimate subjects alive with color and movement.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

"Seahorse" by Sarah Young

Image used with the permission of the artist. More of Sarah Young's prints can be found at her Etsy store and her artist blog.

The seahorse is both a central figure on the stage and an elaborate flourish. Stir what's in the pot and take a sip, it is both salty and sweet. Fish are drawn to her, and she encircles them. Seaweed bow to her, and she mimics their textures with her scaly patterns. Dressed in camouflage, she coyly peers at the viewer from a circular enclave. She is framed, and yet part of a complete motif.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"Winter Sunshine" by Walter J. Phillips

I first wrote about Walter J. Phillips in this 2013 post. You can read all about this Canadian pioneer of color woodblock printmaking on his Wikipedia page. Phillips especially has so many great winter prints. I wrote about his Tree Shadows In Snow last year. Here is another winter gem.

I peek out at this scene of winter's stronghold. Streams of inky blue shadows puddle and bleed across the otherwise undisturbed snow. Barren branches reach up into the hallow sky, grabbing hold of my window's frame. No heat from the sun can penetrate the chilled air, and yet these trees are lit on fire.

I know it is cold, so please, take my hand and let's dance!