Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sketchbook Sunday: Barred Owl on Handmade Paper

This year I learned to make paper. I learned about and made paper along with campers at the Community Arts Center with Summer Spree Fellow Carol Gannon. I took workshops with Cozy Bendesky at Historic Rittenhouse Town, using seeds, leaves, and flower pedals, and plants, and then did the open vats workshop.

So now I have all this random handmade paper, some of which I have plans to print on, but lots of which I have no plans for yet. And I've been really lazy about doing my Sketchbook Sundays, so the obvious solution is to start drawing on some of this lovely paper. Here's my first attempt: a barred owl in flight.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

"Sunset Glow at Sakurajima" by Hagiwara Hideo

We claw our way up and tumble back down, and now drift by, slowly, silently, in the waning light of day, witnessing the exquisite aftermath of erosion.

Friday, September 15, 2017

"Moth" by Paul Shaub

Butterflies get all the glory,
But the moth flittering under the moonlight

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Pilgrimage to Dog Mountain

Last week I finally made it to Dog Mountain, the home of artist Stephen Huneck's gallery and Dog Chapel in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont. I have been a great fan of Huneck's colorful woodcuts for years. I first wrote about his work in 2011 on the one-year anniversary of Huneck's passing.

This year was the perfect time for my family to take this trip. For one, we said goodbye to our beloved, 19-year-old cat Aubrey a few months ago, and were able to pay tribute to him at the Dog Chapel. For another thing, we just adopted our first dog - a friendy, spunky Australian Shepherd named Choban.

These are some of the photographs I took while visiting Dog Mountain. I highly recommend the trip for any lovers of dogs, cats, woodcuts, and wood carvings. More information about the place can be found at the website.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dinosaur Monotype

Well, the school year has certainly hit the ground running. My mind is packed full of curriculum I've been designing and trying to learn the names of all my new students.

This is a monotype of a dinosaur I made this week. I don't have much to say about it other than I like it and it was fun to make.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Margaret Preston and Cultural Appropriation

I've always aesthetically enjoyed carvings and paintings of Australian Aborigine culture. Recently I became curious about whether any contemporary indigenous Australian artists had translated their traditional styles into works including woodcut printmaking. But all my searches are overwhelmed with the fine art prints of Margaret Preston.

Preston was a highly prolific and acclaimed modernist painter and printmaker. Last year I blogged about her The Bark Bag. Much of Preston's work directly references Aboriginal styles and motifs by integrating them into her compositions. Many works, such as the one featured here, are essentially reproductions of indigenous works. Seeing all this, I began to assume that Preston must be at least partially of Aboriginal ancestry. But she was not.

Preston was drawn to the Aboriginal work for many of the same reasons I am - based on aesthetic arrangements that struck her as fresh, striking, and beautiful. When interpreted through the philosophical lens of Modernism and imitated by her, Preston thought such styles and motifs to have universally appealing qualities that would transcend cultural and ethnic boundaries between people of European and indigenous ancestry, and thus be employed to establish a distinct and unified national art for Australia.

But what these imitations and Modernist interpretations also do is negate the meaning and purpose the original, indigenous works had for the people who created them. When I view works by indigenous peoples' (or historical works of art, for that matter) they are accompanied by information that sets them in context, presumably because that context is of utmost significance to fully understanding the works. The art and the anthropology cannot be separated without losing something essential to the work. I first viewed artwork by contemporary Australian Aborigine artists at the U Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and included were written, photo, and video explanations that attempted to give outsiders such as myself some broader understanding of what the works meant. Sure, I still enjoy the works on a purely aesthetic level, and I also cannot help but interpret them in my own way based largely on how my mind and eye have been trained to see them. But I don't pretend that my artistic sensibility - that is influenced by my own subjective cultural experiences - is somehow more universal and of greater significance than that of the artists foreign to me.

We cannot help but be influenced by what we see all around us. Picasso's art was profoundly effected by his exposure to traditional African sculptures and masks. Matisse's art was heavily influenced by his exposure to Japanese wood block prints. Japanese art has been influenced by waves of exposure to foreign cultures (primarily Chinese) transformed and made their own by Japanese artists. I don't know if there is a hard line between cultural misappropriation and the sort of cultural diffusion that is inevitable and oftentimes transformative.

Sadly, I don't find many of Margaret Preston's works which obviously feature Aboriginal styles and motifs transformative. The references are too blatant. Maybe I'm missing something, but many strike me as little more than the observational studies of an outsider. Like when an art student sits in a museum making a copy of a masterwork.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sketchbook Sunday: Papermaking Workshop II

This weekend I returned to Historic Rittenhouse Town for more papermaking workshops with artist and educator Cozy Bendesky. (Last month I took papermaking with seeds, leaves, and flower pedals) Saturday was papermaking with plants, and today was open vats papermaking, which is basically open studio. Over the weekend I made 63 sheets of paper out of cotton, thistle, cattails, day lilies, and recycled bluejeans. This includes 20 sheets to use in an upcoming print exchange, some paper for my daughters, and the 6 sheets pictured here that I'm going to print on as soon as I figure out what to print. 

In addition to having great fun, this is building up to something. Just wait 'til the spring of 2018. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Naked In New Hope 2017

September 9 through October 28 six of my white line woodcuts of nudes (including three from the Naked Selfies series) will be exhibited at Sidetracks Gallery in the group exhibition Naked in New Hope. This will be the 11th year of an annual special exhibition, and my 4th year as a participating artist. The opening reception is September 9 from 6-9PM, always well-attended, and lots of diverse work from mostly local artists will be featured. I encourage anyone who can to attend!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

4th Graders Turned Their White Line Prints Into Mixed Media Sculptures

This week was my last week teaching Summer Spree at the Community Arts Center. It was only a week-long session and I wanted the kids to do both some 2D and 3D art, so we took the white line prints they made earlier in the week, painted the back with watercolors (using salt and alcohol to add texture), cut them out, and attached bodies made of craft stems and beads. The kids also made magazine paper mache stands for their butterflies to perch on.

As always, this camp is a blast to teach. As I said to my co-workers at the end of the last day, I'm already looking forward to next year.


This last photo is of the butterflies made by myself and my assistant.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

White Line Prints by 4th Graders

This week in Summer Spree camp I had my 4th graders make a version of white line relief prints of butterfly wings (this summer's theme is "Metamorphosis") by drawing into foam boards (we used Scratch Art Scratch Foam sheets, but one could also use styrofoam sheets/plates if on a tight budget) and then printing the shapes of color in between the lines with markers. For a registration board we simply taped the sheets and paper to clipboards (as can be seen in the second photograph here.) Stay tuned - later this week we're going to turn these into parts of scuptures!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Print Shop at Carillon Park in Dayton

Spending some time with family in Ohio this summer I had the pleasure to visit the Carillon Historical Park's Print Shop. The shop, furnished with 1930's printing equipment, including a press once owned by one of the Wright Brothers, serves as both a museum and functional press, continuing to produce cards, stationary, and notepads. 

I was thrilled to purchase a couple sets of notecards, including this 4" x 3" wood engraving of a fish by designer/printmaker Thomas Schorgl, and printed by master printer Robert Smith.  

Our tour guide produced the below small print of the park's schoolhouse for my daughter and niece to keep as souvenirs

The Park is an amazing place, which has only in recent years been renovated and transformed into a top notch museum that showcases the peak of Dayton as a center of innovation and entrepreneurship. The highlight of the Park is of course the original 1905 Wright Flyer III. But any printmakers and printmaking enthusiasts would also deeply appreciate the Print Shop. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Linocuts+ by 4th graders, inspired by a visit to a frog pond

Last week I had my Summer Spree campers create linoleum prints inspired by our visits to the local frog pond. They drew in sketchbooks, then made drawings in pencil on linoleum blocks. I showed them how to use carving tools (none had made a linocut before.) A few minor cuts and bandaids later they learned how to proof their prints in black or blue ink on white paper and white ink on black paper. From there the kids were encouraged to create final products for our end of session exhibition however they wanted. They could hand color with markers, colored pencils, watercolor paints, or collage. As a result of being given so much freedom toward the end of this project, the variation in their final products is striking and really reflects each of their personal interests and personalities.

My favorite was Minori's. She's a bit of a dark, serious kid at times, and after hand-coloring her print she wanted to add a poem "about a frog and a window." So we did a Google search and she found the perfect poem to compliment her image and set the dark mood she wanted: Frog Outside My Window by Walterrean Salley.

Amelia spent a lot of time carving and removed most of the surface linoleum from her block, so I had her print in oil-based black ink and then we masked a border and she add colors with watercolor paint for the neatly finished image of a birdfeeder.

Lauren got rather creative; first she hand-colored and glued one of her prints to a blue piece of paper. Then she drew on and cut one of her other prints to turn it into a figure, and added it and more drawing to the overall work of art.

Both Selwa and Leah turned their prints into diptychs; Selwa had made a symmetrical image with the frog in the center and the pond below, so a second, ghost image of the print was placed underneath to make a reflection. Leah made an image of a tree and printed one black on white paper, and one white on black paper.


Ben also created two versions of his print, both hand-colored, and glued them to the same piece of paper. And Nate hand-colored his bug-eyed frog print and then added pieces of green polka dot fabric to the space around the image.

And finally, Zoia and Sophia both added bold color with opaque acrylic paint to their prints to totally transform the image, using the linocut image as a starting point. 

I love children's artwork. Looking forward to Session 6 of Summer Spree camp this year. I think I'm going to have the kids make a version of white line relief print with markers and Scratch Art Scratch Foam.