Friday, March 31, 2017

"A Wise Old Owl" Editions Completed

Mid-January I launched "A Wise Old Owl" Kickstarter campaign to make 100 accordion books (50 black and white and 50 hand-colored) illustrating this Mother Goose rhyme:

A wise old owl sat in an oak, 
The more he heard the less he spoke; 
The more he spoke the less he heard; 
Why aren't we all like that wise old bird? 

Tonight I finished the edition. I purchased some Thai marbled mulberry paper for the covers, which adds to the uniqueness of each book in the editions. Here's a photograph of the 60 scheduled to be mailed out to campaign contributors next week. The rest will eventually be for sale direct from my studio and possibly at a couple of local stores.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

"Desert Rooster" by Maria Arango Diener

I was sent this print as a gift from one of the participants in Baren Exchange #71. It was one of several gifts in the form of original prints and one hand-made book - certainly encouragement to be volunteer coordinator again some time in the future! This wood engraving of a "desert rooster" (another term for a roadrunner) was a originally created for another Baren Exchange; specifically one to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Year of the Rooster. Maria wrote about it and other prints she has made for that annual exchange on her blog here.

I truly love this small print. It is totally emblematic of the artist's style, influenced by the vast, warm (in both temperature and color) landscape of the American Southwest. Whether working in black and white or color reduction, Maria's prints are layered and create the sort of depth one can get lost in. With this particular print, I have a companion in the foreground with which to enjoy the view. This will be framed and placed on the wall in my living room in Philadelphia (set in a state quite different in character from the Southwest), where I can periodically gaze at it and contemplate the grand and varied qualities of this nation's land, foilage, and inhabitants.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Botanical and Wildlife Linocuts (First Proofs) by 6th Graders at Meade

 This week the rest of my 6th grade SNAP (Science Nature and Art in Philadelphia) students  pulled black and white proofs from their carved linocuts - this is a sampling from Meade Elementary. (I have also posted images from kids at Kearny and Morris.) 

Botanical and Wildlife Linocuts (First Proofs) by 6th Graders at Morris

This week the rest of my 6th grade SNAP (Science Nature and Art in Philadelphia) students  pulled black and white proofs from their carved linocuts - this is a sampling from Morris Elementary. (I have also posted images from kids at Kearny and Meade.)

I especially love the gasps I get from kids who have never done relief printmaking before when I pull up the first print from the demo block. After that the kids happily go to work trying to get a good image. When they fail to get one they like, I tell them, "That's the joy of printmaking, you can always print a new one." Then they go back to the inking station to try again. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sketchbook Sunday: Two More Wagner Owls

Over the past 3 days I've spent 13 hours hand-coloring the same A Wise Old Owl print for books for my Kickstarter campaign, and boy, I needed some relief in the form of some loose, no-pressure sketching. I'm on an owl kick (obviously), so I did few from taxidermy owls from the Wagner's collection. These two I like best for their fluffy textures and curious expressions. They are done in sumi ink, conte crayon, and vine charcoal.

(Older Wagner owl sketches can be found here, here, and here. No doubt there will be more in the future as there are still more Wagner owls I haven't drawn yet and those I'd like to draw again.)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Botanical and Wildlife Linocuts (First Proofs) by 6th Graders at Kearny

Today my 6th grade SNAP students at Kearny School pulled black and white proofs from their carved linocuts. As readers can see here, the results were impressive! As I mentioned in my last post about Lynette Weir's Tawny Frogmouth Glare linocut, this project is meant to compliment a science unit in Ecology. I'm working with two more schools and the students at all three will be further developing some of these works by added color and collage, so more posts to come!

Kearny is the same school where I had last year's 6th graders create reduction linocuts inspired by fossils. I'm so impressed with the work produced by these kids, most of whom have never made a relief print before.

I taught a similar SNAP project a few years ago in the after school program (posts here and here) to compliment a unit on insects, but now that I'm visiting several whole classes during the school days I have many more students engaged and present for the entire duration of the program. I love seeing their enthusiastic reactions when they pull that first black and white proof off the block. They are always so surprised and pleased at the bold transformation of their drawings into prints.

For my part I am particularly excited about this project because I've been developing my own linocuts of owls. I hope to continue that series later this year, possibly for a calendar.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Highlights from Baren Exchange #71 (Two Critters)

I've been involved with the Baren Forum for Wood Block Printmaking for a few years now and participating in the quarterly exchanges since #62 (Fall of 2014.) This was my first time volunteering to be the coordinator. It was a lot of work, but such fun getting to see all the participants' work first. There were so many great prints in this exchange, I had been at a loss deciding which to highlight on my blog.

I've settled on these two images of critters with narrative titles, "Caught in the Act" by Kristine Alder and "Requiem of a Jailbird" by Monica Bright. At first glance they might appear simply as adorable illustrations, but there is some melancholy mixed in with the humor. Indeed, all of the humor stems from the creatures' cute factor. These are small and humble beings, moderately low on the food chain, always nervously scrounging for sustenance while keeping an eye out for predators.

Though one is a rodent and the other a small bird, they have a similar relationship with humans. They are our wild neighbors, and might delight or annoy us. They might end up in traps or mounted for scientific study. Both of these species are also common to our everyday experience, opposed to rare and endangered animals. But ultimately and easily, should any individual cross our paths, they are then at our mercy. It is this vulnerability that is emphasized not only by the titles' suggestions, but by the close cropping against walls or bars.

And while both of these depictions are rather cute, they are not excessively so. They hold the animal at a distance that more honestly reflects our relationship to them. These prints allow us to pause and take a moment to see these critters through a window where we can not only admire and sympathize, but also feel our own role in the scene and our profound separation from their experiences.