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.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"Tawny Frogmouth Glare" by Lynette Weir

Image used with the permission of the artist. Find more of Lynette Weir's work on her website.

I'm working with 6th graders who are completing a science unit on Ecology. For the complimentary art curriculum I am having them create linocut wildlife and botanical illustrations. We looked at Lynette Weir's masterful illustrations to understand some of the possible choices with regards to style and design to emphasize certain aspects of their chosen subjects.

My favorite prints by Lynette Weir are her Tawny Frogmouth owl studies. Owls are beloved by humans largely for their large, hauntingly expressive eyes, although this particular species also possesses a certain humor in its appearance due to its frog-like wide beak. In her prints of the Tawny Frogmouth, Weir manages to capture its oddball appearance while maintaining its dignity as a formidable bird of prey.

I'll post my students' linocut illustrations soon as we begin printing this week and next.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sketchbook Sunday: Flying Fish

Last week I drew a flying fish in one of my sketchbooks (below), but I forgot to post it on Sunday. This week I had planned to draw more flying fish, but instead I made a 1.5" square stamp from my first drawing and then did some tile printing with it.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Nautilus and Ammonite: Sinking Into the Deep

The next finished illustrations for the Nautilus and the Ammonite book project. This is the second stanza and also the second double-page spread. 

For each could swim on the ocean's brim,
     And, when wearied, its sail could furl,
And sink to sleep in the great sea-deep,
     In its palace all of pearl.  

Friday, March 3, 2017

Rebecca Gilbert: Wonder

Yesterday I wrote about seeing Dan Miller's woodcuts at PAFA. The same day I viewed a second exhibit of amazing woodcuts/wood engravings: Rebecca Gilbert: wonder at the Print Center.

I highly recommend this exhibit. The singular vision for each work is so boldly executed with a high level of attention to detail. There are both very large and very small works, woodcuts and wood engravings. The imagery is familiar, yet mysterious in how it is presented to the viewer. Everything seems to be placed in delicate balance, so still, yet poised to tip and fall apart if another player enters the scene.

My favorite work in the show was Bear Rattle (first photo shown here). I have a soft spot for children's toys, particularly ones that take something that is fearsome in reality and made harmless and even cute. What I love about this depiction is that the bear is made a bit scary again with how intensely he stares out at the viewer (even his smile is slightly disturbing), and the eeriness of the image is pushed further by the beetle-like shape of rattle that is his "body", the stark black and white rendering of the metal jingles, and the black triangular void that diagonally cuts the space behind him.

I came away from this show with a new work of art for my own collection: Gilbert created the wood engraving Bridge (second photo shown here) for the exhibition and it is for sale at the Print Center for the reduced price of $40 for the duration of wonder.

Wonder is up through April 22. Gilbert gives an artist's lecture on Thursday, March 23 from 6-7:30pm.

A great write-up about the show with many more photos by the Wood Engravers Network can be found here. Rebecca Gilbert's website is here.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Portraits by Dan Miller

Yesterday I went to see Drawn From Wood: Woodcuts by Dan Miller at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (up through April 8th.) PAFA is my alma mater and Miller was my graduate school adviser, so this was a real treat.

Miller specializes in woodcut portraits. Most are larger than life depictions of known artists and thinkers, although several others, including a series of Van Gogh, feature the subject's portrait smaller, in a corner and visually integrated into a related landscape or cityscape.

Although the colors scheme is dominated by black and white and colors are always muted, most of the works are composed of at least 2 layers, adding depth to the imagery.

Though the craft is painstakingly refined, the evidence of Miller's art-making process is always part of the final product. For example he uses multiple panels to build a large image, often creating a seam that runns down the center of a face, sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious, and sometimes completely vanishing.

While I always get lost in the tremendously varied linework in Miller's prints, what is most memorable is the life and personality in each of the large portraits. Each face capture's a particular state of mind, whether it is the bound nervous energy of Sarte (detail above), the friendly-yet-intense gaze of Barbara Hepworth (second image featured here), or the deep, quiet distraction of Phillip Glass (third image).

I highly recommend this exhibit to any art-lovers who will be in or near Philly before it closes April 8th.