Friday, February 28, 2014

Owl and Cat in Love, "The Wave" (double page spread pages 13-14)

"The Wave"
Woodcut (reduction)
20" x 9.5" (image)
24" x 15" (paper)
Oil based inks on Subi paper
Limited edition of 2

Yet another installment of the Owl and Cat in Love project. Here the lovers' peaceful ocean voyage is abruptly disturbed by a threatening wave. 

Anyone out there familiar with woodcuts probably knows that with this print I'm a making small tribute to the Japanese master Hokusai's most famous print, The Great Wave of Kanagawa, often also referred to as The Wave. Although my image puts far more emphasis on the couple's panic, while in Hokusai's, the boats and their inhabitants are enveloped in the great wave that dominates the image. 

Hokusai did many wave prints, and I find that my wave print has more in common with a couple of his others. In his "Ocean Waves" print (right), the boats, especially the one in the foreground, are what mainly draws the eye. As in my print, the waves are more of a threat that surrounds the subject.  

My overall composition and color palette has more in common with Hokusai's Mount Fuji Seen from the Sea (left), though the main subjects are reversed, where in Hokusai's a cracking wave rises up on the right side, seeming to burst into dots of white, which are actually a flock of birds flying in the distance. In mine that compositional space is taken up by the owl, boosted up by the tilted boat, his wings dramatically unfolding against rushing blue. 

All of these prints incorporate stripes of blue and white to describe moving waters, although my print distinctly departs from the Japanese tradition when instead of the water breaking into claw-like curves (a decorative motif which apparently influenced the designs of Western silverware), the crest of my wave continues the lines in a row of spirals. I was going for a somewhat playful association with wheels or spinning machinery, as if my protagonists are being sucked under a steamroller. The closest Japanese print from the ukiyo-e tradition that I can find with a somewhat similar feeling is Totoya Hokkei's Mekari Festival (right.) Run, guys, run! 

That's enough about woodcuts and waves for now.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Owl and Cat in Love, "Above and Below" (double page spread pages 11-12)

"Above and Below"
Woodcut (reduction)
20" x 9.5" (image)
24" x 15" (paper)
Oil based inks on Subi paper
Limited edition of 2

I've really hit my stride with the Owl and Cat in Love project. I've actually finished the next double-page spread as well, which I'll post about here tomorrow. 

Daytime on the open seas shows the nocturnal lovers asleep in their boat. They and the impressive pile of remains of their many aquatic kills are described in burning hues. The piled carcasses are trophy-like; after all, why haven't they simply thrown the bones overboard? The heap of death grows with each passing day of their long journey. 

Below them, much cooler colors describe the many creatures who lurk and surround them just below the water line. Some of these might become the Owl and Cat's next meal. Others appear more threatening to our protagonists. The lovers quietly occupy their own private, tiny, floating island, above an entire other world. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Owl and Cat in Love, "Sailing Away" (double page spread pages 9-10)

"Sailing Away"
Woodcut (reduction)
20" x 9.5" (image)
24" x 15" (paper)
Oil based inks on Subi paper
Limited edition of 2

This is the next in my Owl and Cat in Love project. Here the new lovers sail away in their famous pea-green boat. I imagine them leaving the city for the wilderness. Eventually the wilderness of the island "where the bong tree grows," but first the wilderness of the open seas...

Monday, February 24, 2014

"Orange Persian" by Elizabeth Norton

That cat stared right at me like a miniature demon perched on a stump. He knew he wasn't supposed to be on the table, so he preempted my shooing with a threatening glare. His long fur lapped the dark tablecloth, shedding strands wherever they touched, as a torch leaves scorch-marks. Thankfully the fire was contained, and I'm not afraid of the devil.

Elizabeth Norton (1887-1985) was an American artist known especially for her printmaking, including color woodcuts (frequently of animals) such as this. Many of her prints ended up in notable collections such as the Met and Smithsonian. A full profile of Norton can be found at the Pacific Art League's website here.

Friday, February 21, 2014

"Free Swim" by Kari Percival

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More about Kari Percival and her artwork can be found at her website.

Fetal kits float in the domelike dwelling of mother's womb, close to the heart. Her (mother beaver's) oily body flies through the water. Streaks shoot out from her outstretched, webbed feet. Even the base of her tail gasps in wide-eyed delight at her graceful leap over aquatic fairy circles. The smiles in their (the kits') gestures can only be described as wheeeee! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Two Apples" by Roy Lichtenstein

Movement, like the squeezing of mustard out of a bottle... The surface has been haphazardly wiped, leaving behind slithering, parallel strings of emaciated black. 

FIRST VOICE: I've heard of apples. They are something edible that grows on trees, but this seems more plastic than organic. Juicy in all the wrong ways. Is that turpentine I smell?

SECOND VOICE: I can see that you're hungry. Please, take them both. Eat them. They won't harm you. I promise.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"Birch" by Angie Lewin

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More of Angie Lewin's wood engravings and other works of art can be found at her website.

The trunk gently curves, like the raised arm of a conductor, or giraffe's neck. I hear music. Soothing chimes emanate from the soft, pink blossoms on a geometric bouquet. The lyrical, dotted-line interruptions in the pale bark tink, ping, and zoot. I feel as if I've encountered an alien dancer, camouflaged in the snow.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Owl and Cat in Love, "Provisions and Pawn" (double page spread pages 7-8)

"Provision" and "Pawn"
Woodcuts (reduction)
Each is 11.25" x 11.75" (image), 15" x 16" (paper)
Oil based inks on Subi paper
Limited editions of 2 each

Finally finished another double page spread in Owl and Cat In Love. This is of course from the line "They took some honey, and plenty of money" in Lear's original poem. I wanted to give a sense that at this point the owl and cat live in a rather developed world, but they are about to take off on an adventure into a more wild and primitive existence. A little foreshadowing of their future adventures on the sea and in the forest are suggested by the patterns on the arches.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Behold the Day" by Frances Gearhart

The trees in the foreground stand motionless, rooted to the ground by shadow, and glued to each other as if each were merely a part of a single organism. A great beast overlooking his domain.

The warm earth glows gold, and slowly breaths in the crisp, cool air. The grass is soft as cotton.

The cerulean sky, a whipping, whirling collection of chimes and murmurs. Wisps of dancing clouds encircle mounds of forest. The heavens, infinitely vast, infinitely deep, are a world of their own. We can only enjoy the view from a distance.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Great Horned Owl" by Betsy Bowen

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More of Betsy Bowen's woodcuts can be found at her website.

How vivid are the colors reflected in the moonlight! Out of this not-so-darkness, he gives a dominating glare. His yellow-disk eyes push me down with force. He seems perched rather high up, larger than life, giving a look that declares this forest his kingdom. I am merely an unwelcome trespasser, and while I probably should grovel for mercy, I'm too mesmerized by his vibrant regalia.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

"Winter Road at Dusk" by Jeanne Robacker Amato

Image posted with the permission of the artist. Jeanne Robacker Amato is an American printmaker who works and teaches out of Allen Hill Press, her Vermont studio/gallery. Find out more at her website.

Countless tires have plowed through the snow on the road. It is a stretch of tan and umber streaks, a muddy, rushing river that curves over the horizon. The road's flowing appearance is in contrast to the undisturbed banks of silvery snow on either side, and the still trees. The evergreens conserve mounds of the white stuff in their flourishing, green boughs, while the tall and spindly hardwoods stand dignified in their naked repose.

The road reminds us of the human presence, and the human struggle to continue with our routine, despite the more harsh, less lovely aspects of winter. By February, those pristine banks of snow seems more frigid than sparkling. We continue to plow through dirty snow, with thoughts of spring and the knowledge that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, February 3, 2014

"Tree Shadows In Snow" by Walter J. Phillips

The Sorcerer leans, 
raises bony limbs, and casts
an indigo web.

Yet another snow day - what a gloriously, white winter we're having! I love this image from the great, Canadian color print-maker Walter J. Phillips; it reminds me of when the brooms come alive in Disney's Fantasia. I can even hear The Sorcerer's Apprentice music by Paul Dukas playing in my mind. The tree in the foreground's gesture is every bit as fearsome as the Sorcerer from the animated classic. And just as the mood is lightened by Mickey's buffoonery, the light and cheery colors add a bit of playfulness to this image. For more wonderful winter woodcuts by Phillips, be sure to check out this post on The Blue Lantern.