Saturday, February 28, 2015

Announcement: Words On Woodcuts Press

If you follow this blog, you know that over the past 3 years I've completed the artwork for two books that feature my woodcuts. The first is Cats A-Z, a cat-themed alphabet gift book for adults, completed in 2013. The second is Owl and Cat In Love, a reimagining of Edward Lear's poem The Owl and the Pussycat, completed in 2014.

Since then, I've sought a contract with an established publishing house, first through a literary agent, and when that didn't work out, through direct submissions to smaller presses. I've had a few serious considerations, learned a lot, but received no offers.

Independent publishing was always a backup plan, and that time has come. My experiences with attempting the traditional publishing route, while disappointing, have given me more confidence. I have seen these projects taken seriously by professional agents and editors. I know there is a market for my product, I simply need to reach it.

My business plan is almost complete, and next month I'll kick off the fundraising campaign. Words On Woodcuts will be a press!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Ammonite (Abscission)"

White line woodcut (learn what that is here.)
24" x 24" (image), 30" x 34" (paper)
Watercolors on Stonehenge paper

This is my second, large, white-line ammonite woodcut. The first was posted about here.

This is another attempt at resurrection of the extinct through visual art. I wanted the colors to signify early autumn. There is movement and life, wet, breathing, and bulging as it grows. Green grasses bending under a breeze, scented with damp leaves and burnt wood. Before the grey hues of winter arrive, there is an explosion of color. Before we shut ourselves in to escape months of cold, may we dance naked around a bonfire. 

"Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." - George Eliot

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Snow Night at Honchodori" by Kobayashi Kiyochika

In this image I sense an urgency to escape winter's deep freeze. I hear the pounding of rapid footsteps in crunching snow. Horse and dog gallop side by side, leaving deep tracks. Both hold their heads up high and charge forward.

The people are not so brave. They hide their faces in the shadows of their umbrella and coach's folding head. The coach seems almost like its own living being. A disembodied caterpillar face with red lantern-eyes.

A street lamp is brilliantly reflected in the white snow, making the dark structures and looming mountains in the distance seem all that much more dramatic.

Cold can be such a sneaky specter. Even its visible ambassador snow appears so lovely and harmless. Powdery flakes dancing in the air. But appearances can be deceiving, and under a microscope, those falling specks have pointy edges and are as hard as ice.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

[Baren] Exchange #63: Two Flower Prints

This is a part 2 of 2, highlighting a few of my favorite prints from [Baren] Exchange #63. I wrote about my print for this exchange - In the Tent With Bunny - last month. The technique for this exchange was "Moku-hanga in the tradition of Japanese printmaking". The theme was open. The paper size was 7.5" x 10".

Today I feature two prints of flowers, which I thought offered a particularly striking contrast with each other. The first is Narcissus by Andrew Stone. (He wrote about this print on his own art blog, which can be found here.) The second Rudbeckia by Abel Dewitz (whose website can be found here.) 

Stone's image is so bold with its arresting yellow background. The black outlines are broad yet articulate.  The flower's stem soars up assertively. New buds bide their time at the pinnacle beyond the frame, while the mature blossoms survey all that is below them, wide-eyed and fearless. 

Dewitz's flowers are completely different. They have no outlines, only shadows. They breezily sway over a misty horizon. They are past their prime with regards to blooming; the pedals that remain are brown and hang low. And yet, they are no less beautiful for their advanced age because with their withered pedals they have learned new and graceful poses for the artist to study. While Stone's flower effortlessly crosses the border of the picture-plane, Dewitz's have no border to cross. They dance in a scene that is quiet and mysterious in its hazy vastness. 

[Baren] Exchange #63: Three Landscapes

This is a part 1 of 2, highlighting a few of my favorite prints from [Baren] Exchange #63. I wrote about my print for this exchange - In the Tent With Bunny - last month. The technique for this exchange was "Moku-hanga in the tradition of Japanese printmaking". The theme was open. The paper size was 7.5" x 10".

Today I spotlight three landscapes that I especially enjoyed. Also, as is pretty common on this blog, everybody gets a haiku. 

This first print is The Mountain Is Out! by Achim Nicklis. In his comments he mentioned that it is Mt Rainier as seen during nice weather in Seattle. I love the simplicity of the composition, including the full bleed printing and the texture in the sky and mirrored in the water. Those who want to see more of his prints can check out the [Baren] exchange archives

It's a big, wide world
With far-flung oceans and skies. 
I focus on you. 

This second print is Painted Village by Anne van Oppen, which I was drawn to in no small way because I'm venturing more into white line printmaking myself. She used watercolors and painted/printed each section one at a time, in true Provincetown printmaking fashion. She also has some wonderful printmaking demonstration videos in collaboration with Lisa Toth which can be viewed on YouTube

I watch the houses 
Such happy colors 
This is the way life should be 

The third print is Moon Setting Over Red Barn by Bridget Pilip Murphy. I love the colors used for the layers of landscape receding back and the balance between the moon and barn. It is relaxing for me to look at this image. 

Rainbow horizon 
Seems the earth is a body 
With curves like my own 

Monday, February 16, 2015

"Ammonite (Kaleidoscopic)"

White line woodcut (learn what that is here.)
24" x 24" (image), 30" x 34" (paper)
Watercolors on Stonehenge paper

The block used for this print is a piece of pressure treated pine plywood I picked up at Home Depot. I chose it for the wonderfully bold pattern of grain, and did my drawing in response to it, and so I was thrilled when the grain appeared so boldly in the printing process. This beast took over two hours and a heck of a lot of paint to print just once, so it's a lot like painting.

I had been meaning to do a colorful white line woodcut of an ammonite fossil ever since I made a little 4" x 4" white line sketch of a colorful spiral back in September. I'm rather satisfied with these results, and look forward to doing another large white line woodcut on this type of block again soon.

Fossils are a source of endless fascination. And why wouldn't they be? They are traces of the past, embedded in stone. I can't get over the fact that these animals died out millions of years ago, yet I have the fossilized remains of one sitting on my desk and have seen countless more in museums and in photographs online.

A paleontologist carefully scrapes away rock to uncover impressions of the dead, while I carefully carve into a once-living tree to create an image inspired by that ancient past. The grain - the evidence of a tree's seasons - needed to be visible, embedded as saturated striations across the surface of this image. In this language I will write my love letters to the shadows of corpses. These stripes are lightening bolts I will harness to enliven its remains.

Even if only in a window on a page.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

"Sea of Japan" by Junichiro Sekino and "Georgetown Locks of C&O Canal" by Unichi Hiratsuka

I happened to be looking at both of these woodcuts this week, and thus came to contemplate the similarities. Both feature a composition with thick, diagonal bands that come in from both sides and meet in the center. What first grabbed my interest in both was these diagonal bands. They pull the viewer's gaze in, giving each scene a sense of gravity.

In Sekino's image, the bands fall below the center and the event taking place is violent, churning waters. The calamity of the rolling and spitting waves is further emphasized in comparison to the stillness in front of the bands and in the black part of the sea seen in the distant horizon. The bands themselves curve, bending to the water's fury. The diagonal lines do not connect, but rather, they slip past one another, leaving more space to accommodate their own movements with the angry sea. The rendering is delicate and the changes in layers of color is subtle, giving the whole scene a thoughtful air, despite the tumultuous subject.

In Hiratsuka's more stoic, yet equally bold image, the diagonal bands are solid black, straight, and connect with each other just above the center. Instead of acquiescing to an torrid sea, here, unbending planks direct the river. The waters held back are calm and airy, like skinny clouds, before they discharge under the barrier, strained into a neatly contained waterfall.

In both works, the bands depict something man-made, intended to in some way control or mitigate our interaction with a body of water. I come away from both contemplating power, predictability, and the balance between deference and restraint.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

"Sky Ship"

6" x 6" (image), 8" x 9" (paper)
3 layer reduction woodcut
Oil-based ink (Gamblin)
Edition of 3 and 1 Artist's Proof (There would have been a few more, but I didn't like how the final layer turned out and shifted gears in mid-printing.)

This is another print made to celebrate the birth of a child. In this case, one of my cousins is having her first. I notice that when I make prints for new children, I tend to depict things that fly. I suppose I think of babies as not yet weighted down by the burdens of knowledge, expectations, and responsibilities.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?

-from A Boat Beneath A Sunny Sky by Lewis Carroll 

Monday, February 9, 2015

"Nishikori Castle" by Okiie Hashimoto

I have turned the corner, and it is as if I am seeing colors for the first time, or seeing the first spring after a long and dreary winter. The castle itself seems to glow against the dark thicket of trees bearing geometric, red berries. So much here is pointy. Sharp are the black breadcrumbs that mark the trail I am to follow. Yet, swathes and bulging shapes of foliage are served to me like a fresh garden salad or bowl of ripe fruit. Even the grey stones invite me to run my fingers along their cool, smooth surfaces as I prepare to follow this brightly lit path and feast.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Highlights from [Baren] Exchange #62

 These are three prints by other artists who also participated in  [Baren] Exchange #62. I wrote about the print I made for this exchange back in October. It was my first trade through [Baren], an international forum for woodblock printmakers. The prints I received were all wonderful (featured here are just my three absolute favorites) and many are destined to end up framed and on the walls of my house. I am eager to receive my prints from exchange #63 and to participate in future exchanges. 

This first linocut is Lake Lookalike by Achim Nicklis. Many more of Nicklis's wonderful prints can be found in the [Baren] exchange archives

Light rakes down, and yet
The image resides inside 

The seer's stilled mind 

The second is a Japanese-style woodblock print titled Texting by George Jarvis. In addition to being beautifully executed, the reference to both modern technology in our everyday lives and the moku hanga tradition of depicting "beautiful women", often nude and in a domestic scene, made me smile. A friend of mine suggested it should have been titled Sexting

Mind and fingers race 
Words on a screen, and
It is as if you are here 

This third print, a 2 block linocut, is Backyard by Clive Lewis, who you can learn all about on his website here

Jumble heaves a sigh, while
Structures settle and sink 
A white shirt dangles 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"Winter Tree Line" by Gesine Janzen

I first wrote about one of Gesine Janzen's prints 7 months ago, when she had a work in the IPCNY Summer exhibition. You can view a larger image of this work (and purchase it) on Janzen's website here.

They seem to lean forward, limbs stretched out and up. They are blue and filled with longing. White gashes of light and peels of tangerine sun slip into their open embrace. Just above the horizon, branches arch over dark and mysterious passages. Though the trees of this forest stand bare of foliage, still, there are so many places to hide.

Monday, February 2, 2015

"Snowdrops" by Meryl Watts

I recently discovered the British artist Meryl Watts, known in particular for her color woodcuts. Today being Groundhog Day, it seemed appropriate to post Watts's woodcut of snowdrops, a plant that flowers in winter before the spring equinox.

They have emerged from the hard, cold ground together, and stand in various positions of repose. Stark, winter sunlight shines through translucent petals and stems giving them a ghost-like appearance. More omen than object. More of a signal than an approach.