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.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

#12 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Hippo Mandala)

"Hippo Mandala"
Collograph with foam pieces and then linocut stamping
17.5" x 18.5"
Water based ink on Kozo paper
Edition of 2

Walking around in the heat, it is so nice to know the cool relief of the river is only a stone's throw away. Minutes from now, sink, and dive, and splash! Wet, wet, glorious wet. Depths of liquid that take away the immense weight of legs like trunks of trees, tremendous belly, and massive head. This flowing space in the landscape that transforms the lumbering beast into a graceful ballerina.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

#11 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Waiting for Breakfast)

"Waiting for Breakfast"
7.5" x 5"
Water based ink on black Stonehenge paper
Edition of 6

He sauntered into the kitchen, sleek, hungry and full of expectations. The morning sun, obscured by the big tree in the back yard, shined dimly through the small windows, casting his shadow on the cool, linoleum floor. He paused a foot from his bowls, looked over his shoulder, and let out a single mew, just to make sure I noticed.

Friday, June 10, 2011

#10 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Water Mandala)

"Water Mandala"
Collograph with linocut stamping
Water based inks on blue Subi paper
9" x 9"

This is the first print in this month-long project that I'm not putting up for sale. Even at a low price, the craft is just not up to par. I like the concept of the print, but it just wasn't something I could do in a day, certainly not a day where I was taking care of kids for 12 hours! One of the most difficult aspects of making one whole print in a single day is coming up with ideas that are small and simple enough to do them justice in such a limited amount of time. As a work-from-home mother, I am greatly inspired by artist Nikki McClure. I discovered her book Awake to Nap in a local book store. It features a series of stunning yet simple cut paper pieces she did in her spare time while pregnant and when her child was first born. She would create them in the little pockets of time in between all her other responsibilities, such as when the baby was napping. Each image illustrates a letter of the alphabet, but book ends long before "Z" because McClure's life and time no longer accommodated the project. In this way, the book becomes quite personal and honest.

I need to think simpler. I'm interested in making some mandalas, but I need to hone on a more specific subject that will lend itself to a clean and complete execution. That said, I'm glad I made this print. As I said, I like the concept. I just need to take at least a couple weeks to work on it and enlarge the scale to do it properly.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

#9 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Wood Horse Marionette)

"Wood Horse Marionette"
4" x 6"(image) 7.5" x 10" (paper)
Water based inks on cream-colored Stonehenge paper
Edition of 4

In an attempt to loosen up and be more expressive, I produce something even more still and geometric.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

#8 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Unicorn Marionette)

"Unicorn Marionette"
Woodcut with hand coloring
Oil based ink and watercolors on Rives BFK
3" x 4" (image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)

This marionette reminds me of Sesame Street characters, what with the simple shapes, solid colors, and wide-open eyes and mouth that make up an expression of almost maniacal cheeriness. I have always liked children's puppet shows. There is something magical about a puppeteer performing so convincingly within the natural limitations of his or her craft. It takes real talent and skill to get the audience to either forget or simply not care that they can see the strings, or that they never get to see a character's lower half.

I tried to get this little unicorn bouncing around a bit with his head cocked, as if inviting the viewer to dance along with him. I like the idea that my image of a marionette is carved out of wood (and obviously so), since it parallels the obvious artificial characteristics of real puppets. Maybe puppets can be so endearing because they bring the audience so close to the artist, as there is little mystery as to the mechanics going on, but real mastering in working the mechanics. Elmo is arguably the most famous puppet character ever, but there is nothing special about the actual puppet. For years this plain, red, monster puppet was merely a background character, brought to life by many different puppeteers. It was only when Kevin Clash picked him up and created a voice and laugh and distinct way of moving around that Elmo became the hit he is today with young children. I keep making these horse (okay, in this case unicorn) marionette prints, trying to get one to really come to life. I feel I might be getting closer, but I'm definitely not yet there.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

#7 - 30 Prints in 30 Day (Plastic Hippo)

"Plastic Hippo"
Woodcut (4 color reduction)
4" x 4"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Water-based inks on Rives BFK
Edition of 6

Took another stab at depicting my daughter's new model hippo. Her love of hippos began with her many cleverly written and happily illustrated Sandra Boynton books, such as Hippos Go Berserk.

I'm rather pleased with this final image. The colors are so cheery, a fun contrast to that wide open mouth with giant canines and incisors. It is an odd thing that children so delight in cute toys and stories about animals, which in reality are quite dangerous. Real hippos have killed more people than lions, despite being herbivores (not to mention being such a cute, roly poly shape.) The Straight Dope has a rather colorful article on the subject. We like to protect children from such harsh realities. Like Boynton's illustrations, take the vicious hippo and replace the large, sharp teeth with a silly smile (and maybe some fuzzy pajamas.) Of course there's a logic to this sheltering. Children are too inexperienced to put things like a boatman being chomped to death for accidentally getting between a mama and baby hippo into a larger context, and particularly sensitive children might come to fear hippos in perfectly safe environments, such as the zoo. And by first acquainting children with appealing and benign images of animals, we establish positive associations that can motivate an interest in learning about animals, and a sense of love and respect for them. After all, are horrific these deadly encounters with them are, wild animals only do what comes to them naturally. If we love, respect, and learn about them, we'll find better ways to avoid getting chomped.

Monday, June 6, 2011

#6 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Hippos)

"Hippos" (original collograph)
9" x 6"
Water based ink on green Subi paper
Artist's Proof

This image is inspired by a plastic hippo toy I bought for my daughter this weekend. I'm just playing around again with collographs using foam pieces. This final image reminds me of batik, what with the bright color gradations within solid shapes surrounded by thick outlines. I did a second version of this print with corner pieces (click here to view on my Etsy store), although I think maybe I should add a lot more to it. Fill up all the negative space and really give these guys a habitat to roam and roar around in. I think I'll work on that...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

#5 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Cat In Hand)

"Cat In Hand"
Woodcut (four blocks)
2.5" x 4"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Water-based inks on Rives BFK
Artist Proof (I'll be doing an open edition)

Four years ago, while I was the art teacher for a Pre-K through 8th grade school, a second grade student brought in a box of kittens. These were tiny little things, maybe 5 weeks old. The girl's family was going out of the country for summer vacation and so her mother had sent the kittens to schools for "show and tell" as a ploy to get rid of some of them. It worked. Two teachers, myself included, took a kitten home that day. An adorable, little Tortoiseshell. I had planned to name her Nuala, an Irish name referring to fairies mythology. I put her in a large cardboard box for the long commute back to my house. Despite her tiny size, she displayed powerful lungs, yowling the entire ride, and about 20 minutes in, powerful legs, which she used to pop open the top of the closed box and attempt to leap out. As soon as I brought the box into my house, my cat Horatio - a twelve pound tabby, approached the box. The little spitfire popped out, took one look at Horatio, growled, and smacked him in the face. I realized she needed a name that better reflected such a bad-ass personality, so I started to flip through Uppity Women of Ancient Times, and settled on Kubaba - the only queen in the Sumerian king list. And she had started out as a barkeep!

I like to think that the bold colors and jagged lines in this print hint at an assertive personality ready to burst out, while the inclusion of human fingers provide a sense of scale, showing off the kitten's tiny size.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

#4 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Blue Cat)

"Blue Cat"
6" x 4"(image) 7.5" x 6" (paper)
Water based inks on yellow Subi paper
Edition of 4

This is another image I've been wanting to make but hadn't because it seemed to simple. I like it - the bold, primary colors, the simplicity of line and shape, negative and positive space - there is something satisfying about its Here I am presence. But it still seems like it needs something.

Friday, June 3, 2011

#3 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Wide-eyed Red Horse Marionette)

"Wide-Eyed Red Horse Marionette"
cardboard and yarn relief print
water based inks on Subi paper
10" x 15" (image and paper)

I'm just playing around with ideas and materials here. I'll be doing that a lot this month I imagine. I don't much like this finished print, especially for the amount of time and effort I put into it. Oh well. I made it, I've learned something from it, and that was the point.

ADDENDUM (Added a day after this was originally posted)

I actually made a second version of this print and didn't bother posting it. But having thought about it for another day, I sort of like it maybe even better than the first one. I'm adding the picture of it and links to where both of these prints can be purchased on my Etsy store. The second version can be purchased here. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

#2 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Just Passing Through)

"Just Passing Through" (original woodcut)
12" x 8" (image) 13.5" x 10" (paper)
Water based ink on black Stonehenge paper
Artist Proof

Black cats are particularly stealth, even for cats. They seem to be aware of their special ability to slip and sink into shadows and almost disappear. They might completely disappear if it weren't for those large, round, wet eyes always giving them away. They think no one ever notices them staring out at us from under a chair or perched on a high bookshelf, but we do. Even when they close their eyes, only the slightest bit of light needs to catch on their swarthy fur, and they shimmer as the bulk of their bodies rises and falls with every breath. Still, they believe in their invisibility even while being stared down, and so they move quietly, gently. And when they really want our attention, they shout.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

#1 - 30 Prints in 30 Days (Red Horse Marionette)

"Red Horse Marionette"
Woodcut (3 color reduction)
2.5" x 4"(image) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Water-based inks on Rives BFK
Edition of 6

In my quest to keep my artist's hand moving, I have been inspired by artists like Sean Starwars and his One Woodcut A Week (20" x 30" each for a total of 52 weeks!) , and Kimberly Kelly Santini's Painting A Dog A Day (for 5 years now - you go, girl!) And of course the many other committed artist/bloggers who have taken on similar ambitious endeavors.

My current life, work, and art-making practice are not conducive long-term commitments, so I came up with a short-term, yet intense project of my own. So here it is: June 2011, I will make 30 prints in 30 days. Oh yes, I can do it! And here I present #1.

I stared at this little horse marionette I've had for years and had wanted to make a print of it for a long time. I finally did it back in March, but I've been unsatisfied with the results. It sort of fell into the category of "pretty pictures." So I've gathered some references of other horse marionettes, and I hope during this month to do a few, more spontaneous images that will hopefully tap into whatever it is that intrigues me about little wooden horses hanging on strings. This first attempt is okay. I like how the white in the eye and strings stand out. But the drawing just isn't expressive enough, and the colors just don't pop the way I think, in retrospect, they should. Ah art-making, so often it feels like just groping around in the dark without even knowing for sure what I'm looking for. But damn it, it's there. I just need to find it.