Monday, February 29, 2016

Reduction Relief Prints by 6th Graders at Kearny

Today I finished up a session with two classes (46 kids total) of 6th graders at Gen. Philip Kearny School. This was through the Wagner Free Institute for Science's SNAP (Science, Nature and Art in Philadelphia) program.

The kids were learning geology in their science class and I came as a visiting artist to lead two art projects that connected with what they were learning. We focused on layers and textures, and this second project was making a two-layer reduction relief print using 4" x 6" EZ Cut blocks and water-based printing ink. The students' drawings were inspired by ammonite fossils.

I snapped photos of my favorite prints, but there were so many more! The kids were high energy, the teacher was excited and supportive, and the final work wowed everyone involved. We had a fantastic time and I hope I'm sent back next year.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

"Jungbullen auf der Weide" by Hans Neumann

I feel the world is turned sideways. I am lying down now, the side of my face pressed against the flattened grass. If I don't hold still I might fall down into the blue.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"Sleeping Nude" by Junichiro Sekino

A woman, naked, lies on a bed over there like an afterthought. I notice the length of the bed behind her bent figure and realizing it is too small for her, and I wonder if it a child's bed? Other objects in the room -the window blinds, the pattern on the carpet - seem relatively large, further diminishing the bed and the sleeping figure. Though she has the proportions and curves of a woman, there is something playful and innocent here. A song pops into my head:

Raindrops are falling on my head
And just like the guy whose feet
Are too big for his bed
Nothing seems to fit

The lyrics are sung cheerily over a music box melody, and I smile.

This scene doesn't seem to be about her, though all compositional cues point back to her. This scene seems to be about us watching her. Her nakedness and her slumber emphasize her vulnerability. Her bed is undersized, but yet a world unto itself, with lines, layers and patterns suggestive of a portal to another place. In contrast, the room around her is static. Mostly hard vertical and horizontal lines. I imagine she is having an adventurous dream.

Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes
Will soon be turning red
Crying's not for me 'cause,
I'm never gonna stop the rain
By complaining,
Because I'm free
Nothing's worrying me  

Saturday, February 20, 2016


Chaotic, but not random. 

This is a 2 color linocut reduction I did with a 4" x 6" rubber block as an example for my Wagner middle school students. They are carving their second layer this week and printing next week. I'll post some images of their prints then, the best of which I've no doubt will be more interesting than this print of mine. Not that I dislike this print. But I think if I do a study of turbulence again, it needs to be much much bigger.

Hand-colored Ammonite Fossils

I hand-colored a few of the artist's proofs I made of my ammonite fossil prints for Builderblocks (see this post.) These two are now for sale on my Etsy store here and here.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pair of Ammonite Fossils for the Builderblock Collection

I just finished carving and proofing my first submissions to Totemic17's Builderblock collection. This is a collection of 7cm square woodcut blocks from various artists that art-lovers can mix and match and order to be printed into original multi-block prints for purchase. Artists send in the carved blocks and Totemic17 prints and publishes them with a bio and URL on the webiste. The artists' are compensated $5. (50%) every time their blocks are selected by a collector making a purchase.

I printed a very small edition of these on heavy paper so I can play around with hand-coloring some of them. I'll post the results of that when I finish.

Art-lovers interested in purchasing a Builderblocks print, click here. Artists interested in submitting your own work for the collection, click here. (Totemic17 also sells 7cm square wood blocks for $1. each on their Supplies page.)

Thanks to Jeff White (whose print Silverbacks I wrote about a few days ago) for bringing this opportunity to my attention. I always love collaboration with other printmakers, and carving these was lots of fun.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Monday, February 15, 2016

Three Cityscapes by Lisa Imperiale

Images posted with the permission of the artist. More of Lisa Imperiale's work can be viewed on her website that has links to her portfolio, blog and online store.

I was drawn to these woodcuts by a fellow Philadelphia printmaker because certain ideas for and about landscapes that have been rolling around in my head. For nearly two years now I've been thinking about making landscape woodcuts, but the closest I've actually come is in the work for my Dancing in the Garden series which depicts children in movement at the Morris Arboretum. When it comes to making an image of or at least inspired by just the view of the land, I can't seem to move past foggy concept and into the area of solid imagery.

I've often felt as if one of the mental blocks has to do with living in the city, since I don't really have a desire to make cityscapes, but that is the sort of scenery I'm mostly exposed to on a daily basis. In fact, much of my longing to make landscapes may very well be connected to the further alienation from wilderness that I feel the longer I live in the city and merely visit wild places during carefully planned and "educational" excursions usually with my two young children.

I first noticed Imperiale's woodcuts a couple years ago, but recently felt compelled to look again and I felt a deeper connection particularly to these three cityscapes. They all strike me referencing the natural world. The first, Blue Fade, is even from a series that directly references a natural environment: Urban Ocean. Certainly it is blue and the layers of tightly clustered structures read somewhat like waves. However, the actual solid stillness of the city in contrast to moving waters is asserted by the multitude of congruent vertical lines, found not only in the shapes of most of the buildings, but even in the texture of the block they were printed from.

The second woodcut is View From Girard. While similar in style, this image is much more loose in movement, even musical. It is also more specific in both title and imagery. I am personally well acquainted with Girard Avenue in Philadelphia, working for the Wagner Free Institute for Science and having had many teaching gigs in that part of the city. Knowing the area, I feel this captures quite a bit of its personality. There is a bit of grittiness, many sharp edges, but there is also something energetic and a rather organic flow to the backdrop. It is a place where people really live and work. 

The final woodcut,  Sacre Coeur, transports us far from Philadelphia to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris. This image returns to the quiet and stillness of the first, but constructed completely differently, with the more organic and specific buildings clustered together in a way which points toward the massive central structure of the church. It dwarfs the rest of the humble, grey structures. The flat strip of grey across the horizon serves two purposes. First, it provides a darker value against which the church - white and boldly outlined in black - can pop out. But secondly, it keeps mankind's structure, regardless of how impressive and heavenly-inspired, ultimately grounded to the earth by providing a ceiling beyond which the church does not rise. 

I hope I can eventually get to a point where I make some landscape woodcuts. These three serve as some wonderfully contemporary inspiration. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

"Silverbacks" by Jeff White

Image used with the permission of the artist. Jeff White is a publisher and project facilitator at Totemic17. Check out his website to learn more, and fellow printmakers check out this Open Call for Artists.

I am not big into celebrating Valentines Day or Presidents Day, but I do enjoy celebrating another holiday that happens every February 12: Darwin Day.

In college I first saw the satirical cartoons from naysayers of the Theory of Evolution, depicting Charles Darwin as an ape. (See below.) I remember thinking, Why is this an insult? Apes are beautiful, intelligent creatures. At the time I was still ignorant to how apes had been largely regarded by those in Western civilization as exhibiting all that is disgraceful about humankind.

Looking at apes as a kid, I thought it was obvious from appearances that we're closely related. I have an encounter burned into my memory of a gorilla at a zoo placing his hand on the glass enclosure that separated us, and being utterly struck by the similarities between his hand and mine.

My graduating exhibition at Ohio State University was titled "In Search of Ourselves." My major had been fine art, but I minored in physical anthropology and was fascinated by human evolution. Many of my paintings and prints at the time depicted great apes in a manner similar to this woodcut by Jeff White. In other words, images that sought to get across the emotional and social complexity of our closest cousins. I revisited this concept more recently with the first entry in Cats A-Z: All Ball.

In our correspondence, Jeff mentioned, "I don't know that I'd ever choose a kozo with mango leaf inclusions for anything else but I liked it with these gorillas!" I like it, too. There's something about how the leaves obscure and interrupt parts of the image of these two holding each other close. The scene is is already closely cropped, giving us only this moment of intimacy and affection, and even that seems to disintegrate a bit along the edges in a bustle of gouges and grain.

I feel something important, but not well-enough understood, is slipping away right before my eyes.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"Shinabazu Pond in Snow" by Unichi Hiratsuka

I could stand here a long time. There are a thousand tiny ripples in this standing pond, a thousand soft symphonies in this moment of silence.