Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Cat Loaf"

4 color reduction
4" x 4"(image) 7.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Water-based inks on Stonehenge
Edition of 6

A cat will never fully blend into the furniture because of its eyes. They pop out like a red
scarf in a field of green grass. Eyes that stare deep into mine and follow my every move. Eyes for communication: to greet, to warn, to woo. Front-facing eyes evolved for zeroing in on prey. Eyes big and round, and darkly outlined. Eyes like owls. Eyes like a human child; all at once vulnerable, haunting, and intense.

"Woman and Cats" by Will Barnet

Two cats sleep with a reclining woman, the first curled up at her side, the second nested on top of the center of her curvaceous body. They are attracted to large, warm bodies and yellow. These are what brought them to her on a quiet, grey day. Longing for the comfort of silky fur against her skin, she uses both hands to bring the more intimately positioned cat to her face. Normally the cat would feel annoyed, but the woman's movement is so gentle and unexpected that the cat submits without hesitation, and soon shifts and settles around her neck like a truss, sending out soft vibrations.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"She just can't decide..." (Cat Haiku #2)

Oil-based ink on Rives BFK
3 layer reduction with 2 blocks
Edition of 4
8" x 12" (image) 11" x 15" (paper)

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

She just can't decide
What color she is, and yet
Her coat keeps her warm.

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Green Heron" by Marissa Buschow

Image reposted with the permission of the artist. More of Marissa Buschow's work and information can be found at her website here.

At first glance, this print is like looking out a window on a cheery, spring day. But then I notice the size of the heron, and I wonder, is it a tiny window or a giant bird? I look closer: such balanced structure should seem solid, but the speckled surface feels as transient as the seasons. I look longer, and all the mundane subjects of the background - a fence, lake, lily pads, flowers and bushes - become increasingly stylized and decorative. In short, this picture reads like a lovely dream.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Manhattan" by Jim Flora

I do not live in New York City. I only visit, and as such, to me New York is a bright and bustling exterior of tourist opportunities and iconic Americana. It is the elegant and noble statue of liberty, the impressive St. Patrick's Cathedral, the latest Broadway shows, and sidewalks bursting with happy yet generic, fast-paced pedestrians. An outsider views New York like a child, with an understanding coming primarily from flashy photographs, stories, and movies. All at once the city is a romanticized old-fashioned dream and a modern metropolis. Jim Flora's print, "Manhattan", so much like a children's illustration, is New York from my point of view. It is not a real place where real people live and work. Instead it is so much more orderly and clean, an imaginary cityscape outside of time and the world. It is a place of joyful and noisy escape.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Alice and the Caterpillar"

8" x 10" (image) 9" x 12.5" (paper)
Oil based ink on Kozo paper

I created this woodcut illustration for paragraph #111 of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as part of the Alice Project/What is the Use of A Book Without Pictures. This is a project where a variety of artists illustrate Lewis Carroll's famous children's tale paragraph by paragraph. Black and white was a requirement, although I also have also done some hand-colored versions on Rives BFK.

Paragraph #111 goes as follows:

Alice thought she might as well wait, as she had nothing else to do, and perhaps after all it might tell her something worth hearing. For some minutes it puffed away without speaking, but at last it unfolded its arms, took the hookah out of its mouth again and said, ‘So you think you’re changed, do you?’

I recently re-read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland out loud to my infant daughter, and was struck by how rude and oblivious to potential dangers Alice can sometimes be. Even though it is the caterpillar speaking in this paragraph, I wanted to show the anger Alice feels toward him, so I decided on a double reflection of her expression in the caterpillar's huge eyes. Traditionally the caterpillar's face is rather anthropomorphized in illustrations. After all, he is engaged in pretty human activities: smoking and speaking. But re-reading the stories, I visualized a frightening beast. All insects, even sort-of-cute ones such as caterpillars are creepy things, and the thought of a human-sized one (relative to the shrunken Alice) was truly terrifying. So I decided to go with a more true-to-life rendering of the caterpillar with a face that hardly reads as one.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"A Giant Moose of a Cat..." (Cat Haiku #1)

Oil-based ink on Stonehenge paper
6 layer reduction with 2 blocks
Edition of 4
8" x 10" (image) 11" x 15" (paper)
Available for purchase here.

I've begun work on a book of twelve haiku poems about my cats with accompanying woodcut illustrations. This is the first completed illustration. It goes with this haiku:

A giant moose of a cat
Drifts off to sleep, and
Dreams of mouse-shaped sheep.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Spring" by Amanda Kindregan

Image reposted with the permission of the artist. Learn all about Amanda Kindregan and her work at her website here.

I wanted to write about this image following Waldo Chase's "Fawn" because, while they are both woodcuts of fawns, the differences are both startling and amusing. Chase's fawn is delicate and elusive, while this one is bright and center stage. Of course Chase's is simply more naturalistic, while this fawn is cartoonish and anthropomorphic, with its chin raised in a flashy, smiling manner. But while Chase's image has a subtle beauty that leads the viewer into quiet contemplation, Kindregan's fawn has its own appeal. Sort of in the way that an adult woman in a babydoll dress and pigtails is sexy.

This fawn is like a teddy bear, or most other wild animals fashioned into cute toys for children. It is cheery and plump. And it is rather pleased with its own existence, though it is made explicitely for you and me, the viewers, or in the case of toys, for the children. This is an aid for imaginative play. The real animal is merely an inspiration, a sort of totem for the human spirit that owns it. A real fawn would never strike such a pose, just as a real bear would rip the child to shreds. But there are aspects to these animals' appearances that captivate us - soft fur, a graceful silhouette - and drive artists and toy-makers to exaggerate and stylize them and then toss in human qualities to the neglect of the true beast.

I delight in looking at this proud fawn who rests in a unnaturally-bright, green field surrounded by playful white daisies. She does indeed feel like spring. At least the best of spring. Sure, she is optimistic, a little silly - perhaps even childish - but she is also a lovely lie that brings out the inner child in any adult willing to let her.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Fawn" by Waldo Chase

All through the seasons the pine trees stay green, each juicy needle bursting with life. While other trees feign death, their bare branches reach into the cold like skeleton arms, these plants remind us that hope can survive the darkness. Like the fawn that endures the long freeze, while other mammals hibernate and coward birds remove themselves from the ugly situation by flying south, these brave souls tip toe through the lonely snow on thin but steady legs. Beautiful silhouettes move across the snow-covered landscape. This scene reads like creation itself. The first painted forms on a blank canvas they keep all to themselves. The end of winter is the most lean. A time of quiet joy as they hungrily and patiently wait for spring.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Bertha The Clowns' Day Off" by Sean StarWars

Learn more about Sean Star Wars and his work at his website

It's the small pleasures that keep me going. The way that nasty little dog, in his old age, now scoots on his butt because his hips give out on him, and it looks so hilarious I laugh out loud every single time. Clowns make people laugh. Well, either that or scare the snot out of them. Some might say that's because of some kind of uncanny valley bullshit, but the truth is, the clowns are a more true representation of human nature than the dressed-up, painted, and manicured costumes most every day people trot around in all day. Goofy, stupid, ugly, gawking, leering, and cackling monkeys, that's what most of us are, and what's more, we like it that way. And it's just great if you ask me, 'cause who wants to live up to fuckin' sainthood anyway? But as much as I have an affection for clowns, that isn't why I picked up the trade. Like most careers I sort of entered into it without all that much long-term intention, and now it's just what I do to pay the bills. I don't need to come home every night all puffed up with the feeling that I'm doing something noble for the world. It's quite enough for me to pick up a pack of smokes, some cheap beer, a cheeseburger and fries, and curl up on the couch for a night of watching sad sacks on reality TV. With the help of the booze I'll pass out long before the infomercials come on with that stinky-ass mutt in my arms. Yeah, hangovers can be a bitch, but it doesn't matter because tomorrow is my day off.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Zwei Tiger" by Norbertine von Bresslern-Roth

This is a friggin' woodcut?
But there, looking beyond the churning, thrusting movement of the composition and exquisite details, notice the layers of flat color? And those oh-so-solid lines?
Yes, this is a friggin' woodcut.

I find tigers mesmerizing. Those stripes! They contain a multitude of additional creatures in-of-themselves. Black, sleek, mysterious, creatures. Wriggling, flexing, and stretching creatures. Creatures with thick fur, sharp teeth, claws. Creatures that breath deep - their bodies expanding with air and thinning to a wire with exhalation - then crouch down, and pounce! While the tiger, like its lion cousin is an impressive large cat, its stripes have a life of their own.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Don't Look Back"

Woodcut (4 color reduction)
5" x 3.5"(image) 6" x 5" (paper)
Water-based inks
Edition of 6 on Kozo paper and 2 APs on Rives BFK

He crept into the basement, curious about what was going on there. But once halfway down the stairs, a sound behind him caused him to stop, startled, and turn back. He didn't see anything, and now he was stuck. Stuck in a moment of heart-sinking indecision. The curiosity that had originally motivated his trek downward had been replaced by a paralyzing fear of the unknown. The option of turning back had been comprised, and now he didn't know in which direction to move. All his muscles tightened and he felt poised to dash either way when the inevitable next disturbance would occur, thus making the choice for him.

"Horse Marionette"

8" x 10" (image) 11" x 15" (paper)
Reduction with 2 blocks and some hand coloring, oil based ink and watercolors on Rives BFK
Edition of 4

A wooden, hand-painted horse marionette hangs on the wall just outside my daughter's bedroom. It was given to me years ago by a friend who found it at a flea market. When I first receive this gift, I untangled the strings, attempted to make the horse walk, and quickly came to appreciate the practice and skill required for competent puppetry. In my possession, this particular puppet is unlikely to ever be used in the manner it was intended. It is a lovely object that hangs on a yellow wall, casting an even deeper yellow shadow. Ironically, when suspended on the wall, the strings and handle that normally would introduce motion appear more like a restraint for the animal. The puppet is beautiful, but frozen. Might as well be a picture.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Gorilla and Baby Goat"

8" x 10" (image) 9" x 12.5" (paper)
3 layer reduction
Oil based ink on Kozo paper

I have the image of a hand burned into my memory. A large, black, hand pressed up against a glass enclosure. Walking down the narrow, dirt path toward the next primate exhibit, the hoots of gibbons in my ears, I looked up and saw a hand so human that it gave me a startle when I next saw the hairy, beastly, body attached.

The gentle hands of Koko the gorilla many times caressed her pet kittens, caring for them as if they were own gorilla offspring. Koko's trainer reported that when the first of her kittens, "All Ball", was killed and Koko learned the news, she made sounds as close to human weeping as perhaps a gorilla can come.

I have the sound of voices burned into my memory. A duet of childlike cries. Rubbing out prints as a guest artist-in-residence in rural Kentucky, the silhouettes of dying sunflowers in my peripheral vision, I jumped when the baby goats who lived beneath my barn-studio cried out for their mother: "Maaaa".