Sunday, August 31, 2014

"Olivia Painting" by Beth Krommes

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More wood engravings and other artwork by award-winning illustrator Beth Krommes can be found at her website.

Young children often seem light and airy like little birds. They scurry and giggle. Their stomps weigh less than our steps, though a child's scream can be shrill.

But every once in a while a child falls silent, heavy, her concentration poured into peering through a window to another dimension. The sounds, smells, and patterns of the domestic scene she knows so well continue all around her: the running water, the mingling scents of toast and fresh autumn air, mom's polka-dot dress. But for this moment, she is no longer present in that world. She is too busy being the creator-god in another.

Friday, August 29, 2014

"On the Beach" by Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs

I think what I love about this print by the late, great Margaret Burroughs is that it is the complete opposite of imagery normally associated with summer excursions to the shore. It shares with the viewer another side of the beach experience. Most beach imagery features bright, clear skies and vivid pastel colors. But no sun bakes these vacationers; the sky is dark and streaked with lines suggestive of wind or rain. Often the people in beach scenes stand out from the landscape, appearing as obvious visitors, almost invading a place of natural tranquility. Here the people are embedded in the landscape. They seem almost a part of it, especially the stoic, reclining woman in the foreground.

Heaven rips across the sky. It is as if this beach is in the eye of a tornado, which stretches wider than the earth. 

There are the heavens, and here are we, sitting statuesque like an Egyptian Sphinx, bending in an effort to stand, holding on to babe or ball, reaching out. Here are we. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Elizabeth Busey prints of Spirals In Nature

Images posted with the permission of the artist. More about Busey's work can be found on her website and blog.
The whole universe is based on rhythms. Everything happens in circles, in spirals. 
-John Hartford 
I'm interested in spirals lately, inspired by the amazing wood engravings by Beth Krommes that I discovered in the picture book Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature. This summer, spirals were the theme for the collographs made by my students.

Below are Busey's brief statements associated with these three images (in quotes) followed by my responses.

Ship of Pearl

"Growing in the cool, deep waters of the Pacific, a chambered nautilus expands its shell home in a perfect logarithmic spiral."

I stand at the top of a staircase. There is nothing particularly interesting about this floor itself. The fiery steps, luscious like slices of sashimi, are where it's at. If I dare to step, I've no doubt I will shrink like Alice, and enter a whole new world of wonder in the infinite below.

Great Unknown

"A swirl of larger and smaller light particles form our conception of the Milky Way Galaxy. Scientists theorize that the galaxy is a spiral shape, with a bar of brilliant light at the core."

Caught: a single, still moment in the galaxy's restless dance. Purple streaks drag across the blackness of space like strokes of paint in Van Gogh's Starry Night. Dots of yellow confetti swarm in the center, while others of a greater variety of hue float on the edges around a swirl that reminds me of the skirt of a Flamenco dancing woman. I feel the burning sensation in her breast. 


"A spider web captures perfect orbs of water. The web is the universal spiral seen in everything from galaxies to seashells." 

The dew at dawn makes visible this trap. Beads glisten and seem as hard and permanent as stone, each it's own contained world. The faint lines of the web appear deceptively delicate. So lovely is this harbinger of doom.

Monday, August 25, 2014

"Sitting" by Roger Walkup

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More of Roger Walkup's prints can be found at his website and for sale online here. 

I wrote about another print by Roger Walkup during Naked July here. He mentioned that "Gretchen" (the woman depicted in this image) is the subject of many of his prints, including his Morning and Evening series. 

The woman sits on the floor, though there is an empty chair beside her. She seems engaged, perhaps in a conversation with someone cut off from our view. She prefers the floor. Why not, given what a bright and cheery pattern is found there. On the floor she can be closer to her her beverage. She can cross her legs without any restrictions. 

Note the cat whose head, chest, and paw jut out from the perch where he lounges. Often it's good to spread out, get comfortable, fill out the space with our true selves. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Of A Feather - An Avian Alphabet" by Colin See-Paynton

In my last post I wrote about the wonderful color linocuts of Christopher Wormell, and his creative use of vocabulary in a counting book. Today I present Colin See-Paynton's stunningly detailed wood engravings for a bird-themed alphabet book. This book also happens to employ the use of creative vocabulary.

Instead of seeking out nouns for types of birds that match with all of the letters of the alphabet, which would no doubt lead to some difficulty with certain letters (I'm talking about you, X) and put in place certain restrictions for the artists, See-Paynton chose to match each letter with an entire phrase about each group of birds. The result is a sort of unexpected elegance of language that matches perfectly with the ceremonial composition and ornately detailed imagery.
The sampling here includes Parliment of Owls, Irascibility of Robins, Tiding of Magpies, and Quietude of Swans. The owls and swans sit at rest, couched in the image's frame, while the magpies disperse outward, and the robins swarm toward a fellow in the center, In all of them the figures are tightly arranged and completely contained within the frame. This is what gives the composition a sort of ceremonial look. All four of these also showcase a rather balanced mix of black and white and breathtaking array of textures for the viewer to explore.

You can find the entire collection for viewing online here. The book and exhibition catalog can be found for purchase at the artist's website here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Christopher Wormell's "Fifteen Leopard Rosettes"

I've promoted Christopher Wormell's linocuts for children on this blog once before. But such gorgeously illustrated picture books deserve repeated mention.

Just this week I stumbled a rather well-loved copy of his counting book Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles in the library at my daughter's preschool. One of my favorite things about this book was the use of unexpected vocabulary. For example, for the number 15, Wormell features fifteen leopard rosettes. I've never before encountered the use of that term to describe the large, two-toned spots on a cat, but it's lovely and fitting. So often books for the very young avoid using big words, which is a shame, since how else are children to learn such words if they aren't exposed to them in a memorable context?

Wormell's bold linocuts are definitely memorable. I encourage readers to peruse the entire collection of his illustrated children's books on his website, here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Relief Prints from the Community Arts Center (Part 2 of 2)

This is the continuation of this post about The Printmakers of The CAC in the Stairwell Gallery of the Community Arts Center in Wallingford, PA. 

Both of these color woodcuts are by Lisa Burder Lentz. The titles, from top to bottom, are Bermuda, and Trucks. There is a third lovely woodcut by Lentz in the exhibition, but the glare on the photo I took was so bad I didn't include it in this post. 

Bermuda feels rather ghostly to me, and I find this due mostly to the color choices - a sort of muted grey that weighs down the ship and dock and turns the water to concrete, and salmon in the sky that is reminiscent of sunset, but a little more opaque. While palm trees and cruise ships are often associated with exotic intrigue and sunny, colorful vacation spots, this image is distant and eerie. I feel it's a far off memory, and of a place to which one cannot return. 

In Trucks I first feel a strong breeze blow across the picture plane, in contrast to the solid blocks of trucks, that though they have wheels, are set as firmly in the landscape as boulders. The woodgrain and sometimes jaggedly-carved, sometimes delicately-carved lines bring the entire setting alive with movement. Leaves and grasses quiver, murky clouds float, and a river or creek moves at a steady pace, carrying with it the reflections of the still and silent crates. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Relief Prints from the Community Arts Center (Part 1 of 2)

 For another couple weeks the Community Arts Center in Wallingford is exhibiting a huge group show of work by members and faculty. I taught a summer camp there this summer and was very interested in the handful of relief prints by The Printmakers of The CAC in the Stairwell Gallery.

The first two shown here are Rabbit 1(soft block print) and Squirrel 1 (woodcut), both by Jean K. Kristie.

I wouldn't have thought these were by the same artist, despite the general similarities of featuring the whole animal in profile on a dark ground and light backdrop.  The rabbit is more spontaneously rendered, He seems a little nervous and crouched, poised to escape. The squirrel on the other hand is more neat and controlled, just waiting to be stamped onto a greeting card. This rather makes sense to me given that in my experience, wild squirrels tend to be much more comfortable with human presence than are wild rabbits.

The third print featured here is Snow Robbins, a block print by Beth Camagna. This was actually my favorite of the three, but unfortunately I wasn't able to get a good close-up photograph because the glass caught too much glare. This reminded me a bit of Felix Vollotton's prints that often feature an array of patterns that push the eye all around the composition, and then into little pools of both solid black and solid white for the patterns to flow into and the eye to rest.

Click here to read Part 2. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Collographs by Summer Camp Kids

 More prints from the elementary school students I taught this summer at the Community Arts Center. This time collographs.

I had the kids cut and draw into scratch-foam (they can use a pencil since the scratch foam is so soft, just about anything hard will make a permanent impression) and then glue their designs onto pieces of stiff foam core. The next day (after the glue was dry) I showed them different ways to ink up their plates. We used water-based block printing inks (super easy cleanup and non-toxic) and they tried rolling the ink on in both solid colors and gradations, and also tried making up a palette of different colored inks and painting it on (thus adding the texture of brushstrokes.)

I've done this and a variation of this project with kids many times and it is always a big hit. It is quick, easy, and a great introduction to relief printmaking.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Linocuts by Summer Camp Kids

 I've been teaching at an art-based summer camp at the Community Arts Center in Wallingford, PA. Last week I had 4th and 5th graders do 3" x 4" linocuts. These are my four favorite prints they produced.

Monkey by Jane
Giraffe by Nathan
Ship by Anthony
Fish by Dean

Saturday, August 2, 2014

"New Hat"

This is my last carry-over from Naked July (I ran a couple days behind deadline.) It is a 4 layer reduction woodcut. Image is 8" x 10", oil-based inks on white, sulphite block printing paper. 

Desert Hound
Martian Cowboy
Let me hold your hand
Down the freeway rolls a wayward beer can
And a desert hound
Carries decaying memories away
For the dogs to sense another day

Lyrics from Martian Cowboy 

Friday, August 1, 2014

"Climbing Into the Crib"

4 layer reduction woodcut. Image is 8" x 10", oil-based inks on white, sulphite block printing paper. 

When she was a baby I made several prints of her from behind, such as this, and they often seemed to symbolize her move to the next plateau as something effortless and inevitable. In one I even gave her wings. Even when she wasn't moving onto the next, grand thing, the chosen colors often made her seem to happily glow, such as here

Now she's older. Her legs are longer, and while sometimes they are graceful, often they are unfamiliar and get in the way. She doesn't fit in places she used to fit. These colors signal alarm, as now she is increasingly aware of the dangers around her. Her wings are also gone, and now she must climb.