Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Blood Will Have Blood" Now On Sale for Kindle

My mom, Kathleen Knox, is now offering her novel Blood Will Have Blood for sale for Amazon's Kindle. It is "a modern retelling of the tale of Hamlet the Dane... with vampires." Just in time for Halloween, and priced right at $2.99 - check it out!

Of course this is being featured on my blog because I designed the cover with a woodcut. I wrote about the woodcut itself on a earlier blog post here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Kensington" by Robin Zebley

Image used with the permission of the artist. More about Robin Zebley and her work can be viewed at her website and her Etsy store.

She slips out of the shadows, a narrow opening between two weathered wood planks reminiscent of barns. But this is a city cat. Not that it matters all that much... the life expectancy is the same. Thick, matted hair protects against the unpredictable and extreme changes in weather. Light feet and wily eyes always on alert for deadly dogs and potential prey.

The structures of cities, just as those of the farm, will eventually crumble and decay. So much more quickly do living things die. We are all but ghosts, slipping into this life for a moment, then passing away, like a stray cat who appears in a darkened corridor, then darts back into the black abyss, never to be seen again.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"Fixing Wires" by Lill Tschudi

It's a good day to be outside. The heat of summer has run off and disappeared like a stray cat down the alley. Just enough clouds to take the edge off the sun's glare, and a cool breeze to stave off bugs and clear out car exhaust and other bad smells of the city. The sort of gentle wind that moves like a kid on a bike cruising down a quiet, residential street. A wind that makes music as it blows though tree branches covered with leaves that are just beginning to turn yellow and brown, and the narrow spaces between buildings. A good day to be a garbage collector, mail carrier, or electrical worker fixing wires.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Animal Onigiri Fantasia" by Ayu Tomikawa

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More about Ayu Tomikawa and her art can be found at her Etsy Store.

The sounds of humming, slurping, and lips smacking run through my mind as I gaze at this image. Refreshing blue, fresh green, and juicy red and orange shapes bedazzle these figures as they chow down. Rice balls turn into speckled zoo animals, who will disappear down the open, oval mouth of cat-boy. Meanwhile, behind him a much stranger creature (caterpillar antennae, pig feet, butterfly wings) stands and eagerly drinks from her over-sized bowl. Are they costumed children or chimeras? Innocent diners or cannibalistic specters? I'm not sure, but I long to join them in their tasty feast.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Vampire Skull"

Two layer reduction, Artist's Proof, 8" x 12".
I'm trying my hand at some more illustration work. My mother has written a vampire novel based on Hamlet, and soon it will be available for sale for Kindle. An image of a skull with sharp, elongated canines seemed an obvious choice. When the final cover design is finished and the book goes to market, I will announce it on this blog. The image I'm using for the finished cover is actually a four-layer reduction in slightly different colors. I did this image as a one-of-a-kind extra because I wanted to see what just these two layers looked like in red and black. This print is available for purchase here. 

Overall I'm pleased with this print. It is accurately drawn, detailed, and graphic enough to catch the eye, while at the same time the grain of the wood and the carved marks are prominently featured. I like how the vampire teeth don't jump out at you right away; at first glance it appears to simply be an illustration of a human skull.

I also like that this doesn't look like my typical work. I feel my style, with its bright colors, primitive aesthetic elements, and bizarre, sometimes silly or kitschy imagery, isn't a good fit with my mother's fiction. I knew I would have to try something different for these book covers (she has several novels which I hope to design covers for soon.)  I hope to create a series of woodcuts which are a little more subtle in color palette and purely mood-based than my fine art prints.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Work and Play" by Norma Bassett Hall

All lines and shapes direct the eye to these three children playing in the shadow of the house. Each is hunched over with intense interest and concentration on the task at hand.

On a roof above them, as almost an afterthought, three adults are engaged in their own work. The sun lights up their forms, beset by the lovely green of lush leaves.

As I contemplate these parallel figures, I am reminded of two famous statements: Maria Montessori's famous quote "Play is the work of the child." and the old adage of Confucius, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

I am pleased that the children take center stage in this image. Too often their actions are dismissed, the spirit with which they do their work forgotten when the responsibilities of adulthood become essential aspects of our lives. As we strive to put food on the table, pay the bills, and save for a rainy day, we can forget that work can be fun and personally engaging and fulfilling, as well as productive. This image reminds me to take pleasure in the day to day challenges presented by both my career and daily chores.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Barbara Knight's Orangutan Woodcuts

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More about Barbara Knight and her work can be found on her Etsy store.

We tend to generally think of primates, particularly monkeys, as cute, comical creatures. Associations with fierceness and intimidation comes into play more with the apes. Gorillas, orangutans, and chimps are often and mistakenly called monkeys, but they are not, and should not be labeled so. Their closer genetic and morphological connection to humanity can make us feel a greater kinship to them and take a more protective of stance with regard to these noble beasts. However, it can also enter them into the uncanny valley, giving them an eerie, sometimes frightening quality.

It is the latter, more ominous association that is subtly emphasized in these two portraits. In both, the orangutan's gaze is focused slightly to the left, just missing an eye-to-eye connection. Their nostrils flare, two wide-open ovals as large as their beady, more reptilian than human-like, eyes. Shades of cold blue contrasted with firey oranges instill a sense of danger. Their giant heads, cropped around their tiny faces, loom over us, too close for comfort. The size and shape of their heads and wildness of their unkempt manes leave no doubt that these are alpha males, or at least big mamas, prepared to tear apart any who challenge their territorial authority or seem to threaten their precious babes.

Orangutans are the most solitary of the great apes. Of all the great apes, they spend the least amount of time among their own kind, and are the most difficult to maintain in healthy captivity. These are deeply sensitive, intelligent creatures, but very much introverts who prefer to be left alone. At a distance, they are graceful, red acrobats, navigating the forests of Borneo with their long arms and strong grips. But up too close, and these lovely and mysterious "men of the trees" can become tremendous ogres of the most nightmarish and legendary tales.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"The Turtle" by Eliza Draper Gardiner

The air is still, and it is a quiet, cool-blue autumn day. The door to the kitchen has just slammed shut, and I move closer to the house, attracted to the sound of  water being drawn in the kitchen.

I clumsily crawl up two steps on short limbs and under the weight of my over-sized head. Baggy overalls and sleeves just get in my way. I notice you, and you notice me. You, also burdened by stubby limbs and the weight of your shell, lumber across the ground that I've just abandoned on my way up.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Long Way Down"

Woodcut (3 color reduction)
4" x 6"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based inks on Stonehenge paper
Edition of 4
Available for purchase here.

I never meant for things to go this way.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"My Little Friend"

Woodcut (3 color reduction)
4" x 6"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based inks on Stonehenge paper
Edition of 4
Available for purchase here.

Now see, I've done a fantastic magic trick for you. I have shrunk this elephant down to the size of a chipmunk. Like a parrot, he's perch on my arm. See him raise his once great trunk and squeak in greeting. How clearly we glimpse the truth, so backward and bizarre to our natural inclinations; the monkey masters the giant.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Couch Surfers"

Woodcut (3 color reduction)
4" x 6"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based inks on Stonehenge paper
Edition of 4

A hippo is staring at me in my living room.

His aquatic minions scattered all around.

What should be slimy is dry.

What should be sharp is soft.

What should be grey and wrinkled is smooth, powdery-blue and covered with happy, evenly-spaced polka dots.

What are these creatures doing on my sofa?

Friday, September 2, 2011

"Protest" by David W. Tripp

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More of David W. Tripp's prints and other artwork can be learned about, viewed, and purchased on his website here.

This is the sort of image that, due to its graphic style, at first glance seems as if it will be easy to "get", perhaps propaganda for a cause or clever one-liner. But it's much weirder and more challenging than that. This is, after all, art.

Identical figures seem to march in step, reminiscent of a disciplined military force, implying some powerful leadership and strict code of conformity. They form a solid, intimidating wall, with sharp spikes of texture and shadows. At first, they seem an ominous force to contend with.

But, but... they're cute, little sheep! Even in their large numbers and harsh, dramatic lighting, they are undeniably those fuzzy, adorable creatures known for their gentle demeanor. That's why we so often encounter sheep in petting zoos.

The humor is further emphasized, and more questions are raised by the signs the sheep carry. The message, "UNPLEASENT THINGS ARENT NICE" is so obvious and vague (not to mention misspelled), that it is meaningless. It is kind of an everyman of slogans, the type often seen on bumper stickers or handmade signs in protests, which communicate nothing except to those who are in the know.

The image reminds me of a great dilemma for any would-be iconoclast, the black sheep who dares to question the status quo, and then longs to change things for the better. As an individual of average means, one person's efforts might be totally useless. But join a movement, and suddenly that same individual's efforts, though still small, can become effective. The problem? The group can never reflect the sophistication, the thoughtfulness, the unique vision of the individual. Journalists will catch on film or in writing the most radical sentiments (and worst misspellings), and suddenly every environmentalist is a violent thug who cares more about trees than the lives and safety of loggers; every tea-party supporter is a racist who thinks President Obama is both a Nazi and a communist. Worse yet, membership in a movement can create an echo-chamber. Extended immersion and isolation from other points of view slowly pushes opinions to the extremes. Eventually that which sounds perfectly obvious and reasonable to anyone in the know, sounds positively ludicrousness or incoherent to anyone else. The movement becomes, for all practical purposes, an army of slightly-scary, but mostly silly nutjobs. He or she who was once a black sheep with thoughtful and provoking ideas steps into the light as just another indistinguishable member of the herd.

That said, for better or for worse, there is power in numbers.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Travail" by Tames Oud

The movement in this composition reminds me of Thomas Benton's landscapes of the American heartland. Though the zebra patterns and simple yet expressive linework remind me that this is something more exotic (and certainly not as romantic or melodramatic as Benton's paintings.) The villagers are in total harmony with their environment. They move in the direction that the trees bend and billow, like smoke. The curves and patterns in their robes match the curves of the rolling land. The roofs of houses, a wheel, and the solid black shape of the sky catch the eye of the viewer more readily than the human beings in this picture. Indeed, we don't even get a glimpse of their faces, as they march steadily away, the tools of their work in hand. Everything moves in an anonymous and fleeting sort of way, as if the whole image is just a memory. A bold, but flickering impression.

1/22/12 Update: This blog post had an error. I had used the title "Village Life." The artist's great nephew emailed me and informed me that the accurate title of this print is "Travail" meaning work.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Wild Ride"

Woodcut (3 color reduction)
4" x 6"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based inks on Stonehenge paper
Edition of 4

When I first conceived of this image, I imagined a sort of surreal balance between the stillness of two floppy, soft toys hanging loose off a wooden horse, and an avalanche of dollies dropping from their galloping steed.

Now what I see is a rhythmic, diagonal, and quiet sort of composition, presented in a calm and cheerful color scheme. I am bored.

I think I need to get a new block and make this image again.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Flower Child"

Woodcut (3 color reduction)
4" x 6"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based inks on Stonehenge paper
Edition of 4

The doll lay on the floor, discarded by some child, a shadow behind her so dramatic that it seemed as if she had sunk into a hole. Streaks like rain wet her lacy, white dress and bonnet. Perhaps instead of a hole in the floor, she is floating through a opening in a wall. An apparition coming in from the storm.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Woodcut (3 color reduction)
4" x 6"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based inks on Stonehenge paper
Edition of 4

Online social networking is a wonderful place to lurk. Bored and looking at photos of an old acquaintance, I found a photograph of her and her boyfriend engaged in a kiss. The image is slightly blurred, the two of them unexpectantly caught in a dark and enclosed space. Her hand clasps his shoulder. He uses one hand to steady himself against a doorway while his other hand, pressed firmly on her back, pulls her closer. Normally I can't stand this woman. Every previous photograph of her face - smiling garishly into the lens, or posing like vixen - had conjured up memories of her arrogant demeanor and nasal tone of voice. And yet, when I looked at this image of tenderness, of genuine affection, my mood softened. In my mind she and he became nothing more than human in the best sense of that word. Looking at this image I felt the love I have deep down for all people. I thought of the lyrics from the Dresdon Dolls song Sing: "Sing for the terrorists, sing for the president, sing!" and how listening to that always brings tears to my eyes. I felt a twinge of shame for my previously ugly thoughts.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Making The Pierogi" by Chris Doogan

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More about Chris Doogan and his art can be viewed at his website, and a larger version of this print can be viewed here.

This image immediately brought back memories from my childhood. Many of my Polish relatives grew up in and around Cleveland, Ohio. For years, my mother and her siblings made sausage from scratch. I remember her and her sister sitting at a kitchen table cutting up and sorting pounds of meat, fresh from a butcher. Meanwhile, their brothers worked an old meat grinder (which must have weighed a ton) in the basement. The smell of garlic and sounds of pleasant chatter permeated the air.

Such experiences produce a sort of in-the-moment happiness. The sort of happiness which occurs when we're engaged alongside others in a task with a repetitive flow, which also has a clear purpose in mind, and finished product to show for our efforts.

The women here are firmly situated in their task. They form a considerably solid composition: a symmetrical pyramid. Yet the bright, warm colors give a sense of the speed and agility of their hands. The expressive marks heighten that sense of movement, and add a hint of levity to the women's calmly focused expressions. They glow, like a fire. Something is happening here. Something is being created. Though the literal scene is mundane, the characters serene, this is life in its most essential form: movement and reproduction.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"The Chinese Warrior Zhang Heng" by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

The child warrior lifts the leviathan, his skin red hot, and baby fat bulges as he flexes his muscles. His eyes focus hard, with lips pursed as he holds his breath for the task. In the midst of the struggle, chunks of white foam rush to the surface like an upside-down snowstorm. A rushing current forms with the lifting of the great sea-beast. He wriggles forcefully, kicking up waves, but it is of no use.

The beast's opponent is no ordinary child. This is the rise of mankind: a colorful contrast to his surroundings with an ability and motivation to dominate. The red warrior has strength beyond strength. He can go where there is no air to breath, grab hold of what seems far more powerful, and bend it to his will.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"The Kill"

Woodcut (3 color reduction)
4" x 6"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based inks on Stonehenge paper
Edition of 4

They had eyed each other from opposite ends of the toy box for some time now, one trembling with fear, the other salivating with hunger. Not unlike a mouse thrown into the cage of a snake who is not yet hungry, but will be soon enough.

Bellies rumble, and what must be done, must be done. It should be acknowledged, however, that there is no sport in this sort of kill.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Spots and Stripes"

Woodcut (3 color reduction)
4" x 6"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based inks on Stonehenge paper
Edition of 4

At first I didn't notice when I glanced in your direction. The patterns in your coats blended into that crazy quilt backdrop, and my brain read it like a Kandinsky or African textile. But once I did notice, your forms became clear. You, leopard, perched on top of you, tiger, like some kind of savage, feline totem pole. Standing still and staring straight ahead, are you even aware of each other? Is perhaps leopard hiding from tiger in "plain view", or vice versa? If you turn your heads to meet my gaze, will you believe I can see you, too, or will you continue to assume your camouflage is effective, as does a black cat gazing out from a shadowy corner?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Death By Honey"

Woodcut (3 color reduction)
4" x 6"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based inks on Stonehenge paper
Edition of 4

Starting a new series of color woodcuts featuring toys as subject matter. Hugable predators, tiny babies, monkeys with long floppy arms... Such bizarre things. Think I'll do at least nine of these little 4" x 6" ones, probably within the next few weeks.

A swarm of bees hover over the bodies. Two more victims of gluttony. Brought to the ground, not by sting, but sweet.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"The Calling of St. Fatty" by Tessa Shackelford

Image reposted with the permission of the artist. Tessa Shackelford's website is Dumbkat Press. Check out her latest work and musing at her blog, Dumbkat's Folly.

A light shines, a voice is heard, and she turns, gripping a rail (or is that a baseball bat?) and poised to run (or perhaps mount an aggressive defense?), though her eyes are calm and searching.

Just who is Saint Fatty? Though she (and the wall behind her) seem soft, those luscious "brushstrokes" are deceptive. She is really carved in wood, each cut quite deliberate, each layer of color put down in its entirety in a matter of minutes. Firm and unmovable. She has integrity, the makings of a saint.

She seems so casual in her nondescript T-shirt, skirt, and tousled, shoulder-length hair (okay, the halo gives her away), but don't underestimate her. She has been called, answered, formed with chisels and ink, and canonized by ART.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ludwig Heinrich Jungnickel's Monkeys

I'm a sucker for beautifully designed animal illustrations. These monkeys' bodies are described with great attention to detail, yet with a certain economy of line and shape so the image is sharp. In addition to that, as with many of Jungnickel's illustrations, the animals depicted come alive and exhibit personality.

It seems clear these are zoo monkeys. Even though there is no literal cage, compositionally, they are trapped in a box going round and round, as if pacing, as zoo animals (particularly the more intelligent mammals) tend to do. It is monotonous, but not a torturous monotony, at least for the monkey closer to us. He looks directly at us and smiles as if to say "Hey there."

The monkey in the back is a different story. Her face expresses not only quiet reflection, but deep melancholy. I find myself wondering if this is her typical state of mind, or if something specific occupies her thoughts. I almost feel guilty staring at her, as I sometimes do when I've joined a crowd of people gawking at a mother orangutan nursing her newborn infant, or a grumpy old gorilla with his back turned deliberately to the crowd.

What strangeness, to live a life on display. What a joy for the exhibitionist. What a nightmare for the introvert.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"His teeth will fall out..." (Cat Haiku #3)

Oil-based ink on gray Stonehenge paper
5 layer reduction with 2 blocks
Edition of 4
8" x 12" (image) 11" x 15" (paper)

This is the third print for my book of twelve haiku poems about my cats with accompanying woodcut illustrations. It goes with this haiku:

His teeth will fall out.
I found one the other day.
He's old, this happens.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"Snowy Owl" by Katherine Grey

Image posted with the permission of the artist. Learn more about the work of Katherine Grey, as well as her gallery in Eagle, Idaho on her website, here.

Strange to be writing about a print involving snow in the middle of the summer, but I am sick of the heat. I also couldn't help it; I'm drawn to this image. There is something otherworldly about it. Perhaps because while the owl is quite clearly an owl, it also seems alien - such expressive, intelligent eyes while the mouth and nose are signified only by a small, black mark. Also, the stars in the night sky appear unfamiliar, as if the scene is located in some very far away part of the universe. As in an episode of the Twilight Zone, things seem backwards and out of place. The texture on the head reminds me of craters on the moon, while the streaks in the landscape allude to a long, lush body of hair. The part of my brain that knows how things are supposed to be tells me that feathers cover the owl's body, and the bird is perched on a rock in front of a mountain or hill, and yet as I look closer, every contour and shape seems to suggest something else, something more. This is no mundane wildlife illustration. The true weirdness of the owl - this lonesome, night predator, this chimera with a bird body and cat-like face - is captured in a manner which transcends the naturalistic.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Self Portrait as Priest" by Leonard Baskin

I came upon this striking portrait at the La Salle University Art Museum today. They have quite a few prints by Baskin and Charles Wells on exhibition this summer. I'm familiar with Baskin's incredibly detailed and distinctly-creepy wood engravings, so I was surprised to see this woodcut, a fairly naturalistic portrait featuring a large area of inky, black woodgrain. With a heavier and much more economical use of line than seen in his engravings, Baskin's skills as a master draftsman come through. His uniquely expressive lines give life to the ear, mouth, and eye. His face turns back, an already severe expression made even moreso by the stark contrast between solid black and white areas and a handful of strategically-placed lines that pull the chin tight. It is an expression of authoritative judgment.

What are viewers to make of this, considering Baskin was the son of a Rabbi and included many Jewish themes in his huge body of work? So much of Baskin's art makes dark statements about the human condition. Is this portrait the artist attempting to illustrate feelings of contempt for the worst inclinations of people?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"What Human Is..." by Sada

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More about Sada (Hyun Mi Park) and her expressive, imaginative works can be viewed at her website and Etsy store.

As I look at this image, I can practically feel the chisel against the wood block, carving away all except the contour lines of the universal figure. A woodcut that really looks like a woodcut.

Though seemingly primitive, there is something profoundly artful about how much expressive gesture is captured by so few lines. The figure almost seems to smile, head cocked coyly and he/she gazes toward the viewer. The arm and fingers on one side seem to wiggle while the other pulls down, fingers flared out. One hip juts out, putting all weight on the other side. The stem or string which connects the pair of leaves to what seems to be an opening in the figure's chest bows slightly, giving just enough slack to imply buoyancy.

The use of offset, earthy-red color (it almost seems a puddle of blood around the opening of the chest) and expressive mark-making remind me a bit of the woodcuts of German expressionist Ernst Kirchner.

The image is playful and strange. It is the sort of image that grabs my attention right away, then leaves me to ponder the unfinished sentence that is its title. The sort of image that causes me to notice being in my own skin and feel sometimes a comforting, and sometimes disconcerting connection to the larger human family, and the even larger family of all living things. It is the same response I have to many works of art found in museums of archeology and anthropology, created by a variety of indigenous peoples from many time and places around the world. In the moments I look at this image, I am fully aware of being both large and small.

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Raven Made Women" by Dale de Armond

Dale de Armond was a Inuit-American artist who died in 2006 at the ripe old age of 92. She was an accomplished artist, best known for her wood engravings illustrating Inuit folklore. A large collection of her illustrations were published in Raven: A Collection of Woodcuts by Dale de Armond.

This image is one example from that body of work. In Inuit mythology, the world's creator is a trickster deity called Raven (because he often takes on the form of a black bird.) Similar to the Christian Biblical myth of Adam and Eve, woman is created after man to be his companion. As Raven goes about creating more plants and animals to make the world more interesting, beautiful, useful, and dangerous for man, man and woman begin producing children immediately, and their children mature to adulthood within a matter of three days so as to quickly populate the earth. Just as with Adam and Eve, incest must be assumed, at least at first.

Here the ominous bird, with its huge, sharp beak and claws towers over a gathering of pregnant and naked gatherers. The women seem to move about nimbly, despite their voluptuous bodies, and are quite focused on their tasks. As frightening as Raven's form is in comparison to these little women, he is hunched over in a docile pose, intensely listening to one of the women. She speaks to him standing up straight with her finger pointed in his direction. I guess she's not shy about telling a powerful deity what's on her mind. I imagine she's probably telling him to do something, given the assertiveness of her gesture and seeing as he's the creator of the world. In this image, nature dwarfs, but does not dominate mankind. And these busy women are unintimidated by their own smallness. They are focused on life, and work, and getting what they need.

I would love to see this print in person. It's a small, intimate work, only 5" x 6". How wonderful it would be to hold the image in my hands, gaze through the little window, and sink into de Armond's world of Raven and the first of womankind.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Dreams" by Katka

Image used with the artist's permission. More of Katka's work can be viewed on her website, blog, and Etsy store.

This is one of those images that is difficult to write about because of its simplicity. I am drawn to meditate on the image more out of a immediate, emotional response to the whole picture, opposed to out of a more cerebral desire to explore complex details. It reminds me of the difficulty I have with putting into words how I am deeply moved by many Mark Rothko paintings. On its face, this image is easy to describe: a nondescript sleeping woman across the bottom third of the composition in several shades of blue, contrasted with a striped arch behind a butterfly and flower, all in shades of warm yellow-browns. The longer I look at this image, the more I detach from the literal subject, sink into the abstract qualities. I enjoy the looseness of how everything is described, how the lines and shadows of the sleeping woman and bedding are suggestive of landscape, and the arch behind her isn't quite symmetrical, but rather, it leans to the left as if pulled by the butterfly. The colors, too, are quite vivid, almost cheery.

When I come back to the subject, it seems that the woman, the butterfly, the flower, and arch are much more than they seem. The subject of her dream is so mundane: a butterfly approaching a flower. Yet butterflies and flowers have always captivated both the human eye and imagination. There are profound reasons for this: softness, delicacy, flashy fluttering, resemblance to female sex organs, and simply gorgeous symmetry. There seems to be something achingly feminine about these two, lovely organisms, which might begin to explain why almost every little girl (and many boys) with a crayon-in-hand tends to draw them by the truckload.

There is no conflict in this image, and yet it isn't just pretty. It is rather like a butterfly or flower, just as captivating for its mystery as for its beauty.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Emil Orlik's Mothers With Children

I recently discovered the wonderful woodcuts of Emil Orlik through Clive Christy's blog Art and the Aesthete. Check out that article here.

I was especially drawn to this image of two mothers and their infants. Delicate contour lines sensitively describe the texture of clothing and volume of the warm bodies underneath. The women's arms and hands disappear behind them in support while fabric X's pull tight across their chests. I feel the weight on their backs. One woman heads out of the frame, slightly bent forward. Her baby is awake, eyes scoping out his environment. In contrast, the aim of his mother's expression - alert eyes and tight mouth - signals a clear destination. The other woman captures the viewer's attention more-so in that she stands still, gazing directly back at us. Her expression is soft, content, and a little tired. She and we take brief note of her experience of this moment in time, as her baby's head sleepily slumps over her shoulder. In a second or two, the moment will have passed. She will turn away from us and, like the first woman, resume a quiet and constant movement forward.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

#30 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Self Portrait with Sasquatch)

"Self Portrait With Sasquatch"
Woodcut reduction in 4 layers
Water based ink on Rives BFK
8" x 12" (image) 11" x 15" (paper)
Artist's Proof

The last print finished, with four hours to spare. This month has been intense (as I have a full time day job, a young daughter, and another baby on the way), though deeply fulfilling. Many long nights were spent in the studio, where I might otherwise have been cuddling on the couch with a cat watching movies, or soaking in the tub while reading a good book. I feel this image captures the exhilaration of this month of fast-paced, daily art-making. One of my cats, Sasquatch, serves as a totem. He and the woman both recline in their red spaces, and glance toward each other as if to say, "Oh, you, too?" We're so different, so distinctly separate from one another, and yet doing the same thing in the same shade of hot pink.

I've reached the end of this journey, and I'm ready to take a long, hot bath.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

#29 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Camel and Moon)

"Camel and Moon"
4" x 4"(image) 5" x 5.75" (paper)
Woodcut (3 color reduction)
Water-based inks on Rives BFK
Edition of 4

A friend of mine requested a camel print, and so I have obliged. Since I was so pleased with the Owl and Snake print, I went for a similar aesthetic here. I omitted the stars to add to the brightness of the moon. Its cool light contrasts nicely with the warm colors on the ground. The sparkly presence of stars is also replaced by subtle, gold lines which radiate from the camel's body. I feel he is giving off heat. Even his shadow is red hot, the color of blood. Looking at his face and stance, he seems comfortable enough.

#28 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Red Tabby)

"Red Tabby"
Woodcut (four blocks)
4" x 4"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Water-based inks on Rives BFK
Edition of 3

I enjoy the color, simple shapes, and whimsy of this image. It has much of what I love most about the work of Matisse, although it needs to loosen up a bit. There is a play on perception and space, as the cat seems both on the ground and on the wall, both on top of the background and just another flat part of the background. Like us humans, cats are so dependent on their eyes. A cat in a room (assuming it isn't asleep) follows me with her eyes, wherever I go. Whatever small activity I am engaged in, I may look up at any moment to find two round eyes, their gaze fixed as if they are listening to the most riveting story. But then I go back to what I'm doing, and I forget about that gaze. The cat goes back to being part of the wallpaper, silent, but staring.

Monday, June 27, 2011

#27 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Maneki Neko)

"Maneki Neko"
Woodcut with hand coloring
Oil based ink and watercolors on Rives BFK
2.5" x 4" (image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)

Traditionally, a beckoning cat is supposed to be a Japanese bobtail, but this is a calico with a long tail. He just needed a tail to be balanced. Not sure if this nullifies the good luck he's supposed to bring to the owner, but I think he's pretty cute regardless.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

#26 - 30 Prints In 30 Days (The Owl and the Pussycat at Sunset)

"The Owl and the Pussycat at Sunset"
Water based ink on pink Subi paper
Linocut (2 blocks, 3 layers)
6" x 4" (image) 8" x 6" (paper)
Edition of 6

This is a little sequel to The Owl and the Pussycat in the Light of the Moon, although I don't think it is as successful. Unfortunately the colors in the background don't contrast well enough with the color of the giant, pink sun. I do, however, like how the furious, red silhouettes of the cat and owl turned out, and I especially like how vicious the expression on the cat's face turned out.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

#25 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Owl and Snake)

"Owl and Snake"
3 color reduction woodcut
4" x 4"(image) 5" x 5.75" (paper)
Water-based inks on heavy Arches paper
Edition of 4

A predator capturing a lesser predator. That's nature for you; a vicious game of power. The owl rises up into the night sky, victorious, wings spread out like a great cape, while the snake limply bows its head in defeat. I really don't understand why so many people think owls are cute.

Friday, June 24, 2011

#24 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Candlelight)

3.5" x 4" (image) 4.5" x 6" (paper)
Water based inks on Kozo paper
Edition of 6

I managed to make my fluffy tabby cat look like a scruffy little dog with a gracile, fawn-like nose. Not on purpose, but I sort of like it. All that poofy, unkempt hair so intimately close to an open flame adds a sense of danger. The white light on the animal's furry chest has perhaps already caught on fire, and he just doesn't realize it yet because he's so entranced by the glow.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

#23 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Sunset Owl)

"Sunset Owl"
Water based ink on Rives BFK
5.5" x 8" (image) 7.5" x 11" (paper)
Artist's Proof

I declare this a huge improvement on yesterday's print. Not only did I print the image in different colors and on different colored paper, after printing the background and owl, I carved the block away further and printed a third layer. Yesterday's print seemed washed out, where here the owl really pops. The drawing was just too detailed and naturalistic to work in two-tone, where here, I third layer gives a sense of depth that matches the suggestiveness of the many textures. The colors yesterday were just too subtle, almost seemed drab. But here the fiery red background and bright yellow highlight outlining the owl's back, sharply contrast with the dark purple shadows. This gives a sense of drama and danger to this predator-bird, who cocks his head in fearless wonder.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

#22 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Purple Owl Take 2)

"Purple owl II"
Water based ink on cream-colored Stonehenge paper
5.5" x 8" (image) 7.5" x 10" (paper)
Artist's Proof

This is an attempt to improve on the first Purple Owl print. Unfortunately, even though I spent twice as much time drawing, carving, and printing this image, its main achievement so far is helping me better appreciate its predecessor. In the first Purple Owl, I felt the colors were the strongest part. But here, the same color scheme just doesn't work as well. Perhaps because the drawing in the first print was so much more simple and stylized, and the owl in that image had a more expressive expression, the warm, subtle color scheme served as a compliment. But in this print, the drawing is more naturalistic, which matches nicely with the emphasized grain of the wood, but the colors don't seem to add much. I guess they just bore me in this print. I think I know what tomorrow's print will be...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

#21 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (The Owl and the Pussycat by the Light of the Moon)

"The Owl and the Pussycat by the Light of the Moon"
Linocut over collograph with foam pieces
6" x 4" (image)
7.75" x 6" (on white Subi paper)
8" x 6.5" (on blue Subi paper)

This starts to get a little closer to what I was thinking about while working on yesterday's print of an owl. They look so much like cats, and yet not like cats. It might even be the similarities and differences between the appearance of cats and owls, and not between owls and other birds, that makes me think of the owl as so bizarre-looking. I'd like to explore this further. Maybe illustrate that old Edward Lear poem.

Monday, June 20, 2011

#20 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Purple Owl)

"Purple Owl" (woodcut)
3" 4" (image) 6.5" x 9.5" (paper)
Water based ink on cream-colored Stonehenge paper
Artist's Proof

I completed this little study of an owl today. I've never drawn an owl before, and I realized today that I've also never looked very hard at an owl. What a strange-looking creature! Of course strange is only relative, and so I mean relative to fellow birds, and even other birds of prey, the owl is one weird-looking beastie. Obviously a little parallel evolution with the cat, what with the round, forward-facing eyes ready to zero-in on small prey in the dim of night. So often owls are depicted as cute, but when I look at photographs I see a fearsome predator with a sharp gaze.

I like the colors I chose for this print. The deep purple and fade effectively emphasize the nocturnal nature of the owl, while the orange gives a sense of heat that makes me think of the owl's heart pumping, its chest rising and falling with each steady breath as it waits, patiently to swoop in for the kill. I'll definitely do this over again as a more detailed, finished image, probably this week as part of my 30 Prints in 30 Days efforts. So keep watch!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

#19 - 30 Prints In 30 Days (Reaching)

9" x 12" (on blue Subi paper)
11" x 15" (on white Rives BFK)
Both printed with water based ink
Both Artist's Proofs

I can't help but snicker a little at the poetic symmetry of having created a print of a child reaching for a rainbow, and being tremendously disappointed in how it turned out. I had a simple, beautiful image in my head. I went into this project confident that the final result would have a tender, ethereal quality that would transcend the rather cheesiness of the literal subject matter. But instead, this final image appears rather stiff and disjointed. I guess in this case I, too, was reaching for something unattainable.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

#18 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Middle of the Night)

"Middle of the Night"
Linocut with 2 blocks
4" x 6" (image) 5" x 7.5" (paper)
Artist's Proof

I'm having trouble sleeping lately. Ah, summer. Too much heat and too much noise. Noise such as teenagers next door cackling like hyenas until 3am. And the cats, the cats howling relentlessly in the middle of the night. A steady stream of painfully loud Rowr! Yow! Mrrrow! Too much sleep loss and I can't even think straight. My head hurts. My body feels limp. I want to scream like those damn cats, but I'm too tired.

Friday, June 17, 2011

#17 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Rainbow Tiger)

"Rainbow Tiger"
Collograph made with foam affixed to cardboard
12" x 9"
Water based ink on orange Subi paper
Edition of 2

Yet another ferocious animal represented as a cute, plush toy. Sewn thread instead of claws. White felt for teeth. Puffy stuffing stands in for powerful muscles, sturdy bones, and blood rushing through veins. This toy, more like a cloud than a tiger. Something of the air, not the jungle, like sunshine, and snowflakes, and rainbows.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

#16 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Silver Tabby Whiskers)

"Silver Tabby Whiskers"
8" x 6" (image) 10" x 7.5" (paper)
Water based ink on Rives BFK
Edition of 4

I never tire of looking at such sparkling, velvety stripes. Up close and cropped, the intersection of the Tom cat's jaw, hind-leg, and side read like a bird's eye view of a landscape. Highlights of white whiskers disturb the shimmering landscape like scratches on an old black and white photograph. The gesture of the stripes implies movement, but still they are harnessed in this image, and still as stone.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

#15 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Child and Teddy Bear, version 2)

"Child and Teddy Bear"
White line woodcut
4" x 4"(image) 6" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based inks on yellow Rives BFK
Artist's Proof
Available for purchase here.

I can't really say I like this version more or less than yesterday's version. I am mostly amazed at what a difference a change in color and texture makes. Yesterday's has a sort of pop art, graphic feel to it, which is simple and fun. This image is warmer and feels more personal and expressive. I like them both for different reasons, and I like both of them better because I have the other to compare and contrast.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

#14 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Child and Teddy Bear)

"Child and Teddy Bear"
4" x 4"(image) 6" x 7" (paper)
Water-based inks on yellow Subi paper
Edition of 4

While I like the intense color contrast between the bright yellow and magenta, I think this image might come out better as a white line woodcut with multiple colored inks. Think I'll play around with this for print #15.

Monday, June 13, 2011

#13 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Riding the Zebra)

"Riding The Zebra"
Woodcut (four blocks)
4" x 4"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Water-based inks on Rives BFK
Edition of 4

This image is inspired by my baby daughter who loves to ride the toy zebra rocker in her bedroom. She throws one leg over, firmly grabs hold of the orange handles, which stick out below the ears, and smiles a great, big open-mouth smile as she vigorously rocks back and forth. Months have gone by, and she hasn't tired of this small adventure. Some day she'd be old enough to ride a real horse. To feel the heat and movement of a real, flesh-and-blood animal, and the fear and thrill that comes along with riding such a beast.