Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Rabbits at the Wagner

More Wagner taxidermy. They do manage to be kind of cute, but much like their friend the Longtail Weasel I sketched last month, these guys look like they've been dead a while.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"Indian Pipes" by Karma Grotelueschen

These ones stand out 
Against swathes of green and brown 
Later we'll think them dreams 

I received my set of prints from Baren Forum's Exchange #70 today - yay! Out of the 25 other prints, I decided to highlight this one. Admittedly, I'm particularly interested in it because I've been making prints with more plants, and also because I'm grateful to now know about Monotropa uniflora, otherwise known as the "ghost plant", "corpse plant", or as in the title of this wood engraving, "Indian Pipes".

This print caught my attention because of how rubbery and tube-like the subject appears in contrast to the grassy, woody textures that surround it.

In the colophon, the artist left some comments explaining her rare and fascinating subject:

"Record summer rains bring hundreds of ghost plants to area woods. These white plants lack chlorophyll so live parasitically on a fungus that in turn parasitizes the roots of trees. Also called Indian pipes, they are rare and only grow from their hidden roots when conditions are right, not appearing for many years sometimes."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Branches in Chorus

6" x 8" (block) 8" x 11" (paper)
White line woodcut
Watercolor on Stonehenge

I'm really happy with this. This open, airy approach is one I plan to develop with my white line woodcuts in response to direction observations outdoors.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Molly Hashimoto's Bird Calendar

This image is from a new calendar that I excitedly purchased for 2017. It features 12 sharp and colorful block prints of birds by Molly Hashimoto. The artist wrote about its release on her blog earlier this year.

Although I will miss my Gustave Baumann calendar. (Both were published by Pomegranate, a small press I highly recommend for art calendars), I am thrilled to have have this gem hanging in my kitchen for a year.

All twelve of the prints in the calendar are stunning, but I just had to feature the one owl. Beyond the obvious reasons, the intense gaze and highlights in the eyes of this autumn-colored specimen are captivating.

Happy Winter Solstice, my faithful readers and lovers of woodcuts. Sleep well as our nocturnal cousins revel in the extended darkness of this longest night.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Deer Skull

I'm not thrilled with this (proportions are screwed up), but I've been so busy with work and holiday season stuff it is literally the only thing I did in my sketchbook this week. Going back to the Wagner to draw again tomorrow - hopefully do something better. At least I'm keeping my hand moving, which is the point.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Three Figures (White Line Woodcuts by Martin and Heus)

These are both white line woodcuts. The first is A Day at the Plaza by Peter Michael Martin and the second is The Days are Drawing In by Ray Heus.

Three each
Three feminine figures
Three in
Three out
Three bodies with
Solid flesh under
Draped cloth
Warm bodies amid
Cool air
Three light, but grounded

Three hover over
That which has collapsed
Flat on the
Three look out
Chins up
Three searching souls
Connected to each other and
The world beyond.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

First Proof of "Tree In Early Autumn"

12" x 28" (block)
White line woodcut (Provincetown style)
Watercolors on Hosho
First proof

This is my latest white line woodcut. I like the carved drawing, and I'm mostly satisfied with the top portion of the print (detail) but I need to work out some issues with the green. Also, I don't like how it looks on the Hosho paper and I'm going to try next with Stonehenge for a more crisp appearance and to hopefully get more of the subtle woodgrain showing.

Monday, December 12, 2016

"Tulips" by Blanche Lazzell

Had to post one more Blanche Lazzell woodcut. (If you'd like to read more about this truly accomplished, American artist, click here.) The first three this week were landscapes, but this still life really excited me today.

Delicious fragrance
Blossoms like open fruits or

Red clouds over seas 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Eerie Owl

There's this taxidermy owl at the Wagner Free Institute for Science that is so old and distorted in the best possible way. The crooked, downward gaze is utterly ghoulish. This sketch captures a little something of it.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

"Backyards Provincetown" by Blanche Lazzell

I first saw this wonderful white line woodcut on the cover of the book Blanche Lazzell and the Color Woodcut - a book that presents a rich selection of reproductions of the artist's work. Many artists have been drawn to draw, paint, print, or photograph townscapes such as these that present a layering of architectural structures with the trees and other larger landscape elements that are interwoven into the scene. The uneven rhythm of the rows of walls and roofs is not only lyrically pleasing and interesting; it also unifies a place while maintaining the unique individuality of each abode, and that is comforting.

Friday, December 9, 2016

"West Virginia Hills" by Blanche Lazzell

I'm looking at a lot of Blanche Lazzell again this week because I'm interested in venturing back into white line woodcuts and specifically landscapes. Although as of yet I've only created one true landscape using this technique that doesn't also feature figures.

I am amazed by Lazzell's ability to make her landscapes somehow fantastical and yet also warm and familiar. The misty textures combine so elegantly with the motley of color choices. The bands of color that arch across the skies in so many of her landscapes are an especially intriguing decision for both describing the rich atmosphere and visually connecting the land formations that form the dynamic horizon with the otherwise static sky.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

"The Monongahela at Morgantown" by Blanche Lazzell

I consider autumn to be the most beautiful time of year. Cool and crisp, yes, but most of all it is the rust-colored foliage set against the blue beyond that captures my attention. I feel I am flying over a world set in balance.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Nautilus Shell Collaborations

I often print extra copies of my woodcuts and linocuts for my kids to color. I have a bunch of extra nautilus shell linocuts I've printed to practice drawing the protagonists in my new book project. Here's a couple I let my daughters finish.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Nautilus and Ammonite: Friendly Strife

The next finished artwork for the Nautilus and the Ammonite book project. It is here that the young, twin sisters of the sea meet for the first time. 

The nautilus and the ammonite
     Were launched in friendly strife,
Each sent to float in its tiny boat
     On the wide, wide sea of life. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Holiday Sale of Cats A-Z and Owl and Cat in Love

Now through December 23rd I'm selling signed copies of Cats A-Z and Owl and Cat In Love at discounted prices plus free shipping within the United States!

Links to my online store:
Cats A-Z $16.95 $15
Owl and Cat In Love  $20 $18 

If you prefer not to buy through Etsy, you can also contact me directly with the subject line "Book Order."

There are also lots of affordable original art for sale on my Etsy store.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sketchbook Sundays: Thoreau and a Beaver

This week I had my kids finish a couple sketches I started, with interesting results.

The first was a sketch of Henry David Thoreau. I started it as an example for a student who wanted advice on drawing portraits. Thoreau was particularly on my mind since I recently watched a play about his night spent in prison for civil disobedience, and I've been re-reading passages in Walden. My youngest daughter basically made him up like a clown or perhaps this is a cross between Thoreau and Dr. Frank-N-Furter of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame. Either way it seems a fitting enough way as any to bring the ol' free-thinking Transcendentalist into the contemporary world.

The second sketch was also from something old and deceased - a decades-old taxidermy Beaver found at the Wagner Free Institute of Science. My older daughter seemed inspired by Care Bears, as the Beaver now has a colorful pair of hearts on his tummy.

There is no escape from pop culture. It consumes us.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Highlights from [Baren] Exchange #69

These are two prints from the [Baren] Forum's print exchange #69. The theme and style were open and the paper size was 10" x 15". There were 15 participants, and while all were a joy to receive, I felt compelled to pair these two together with my personal reflections. They were in no way created by the artists to be a pair, but I cannot help but imagine them that way. (Incidentally, I will also almost certainly frame and display them together somewhere in my home.) 

The first is Rough Draft by Theresa Martin, and the second is Still Life with Books and Glasses by Brad Ladwig. In one the author (or artist) himself is steeped in contemplation of his own words (or perhaps imagery). It is the transition between the time for free flow of artistic expression and putting on one's editor cap. 

The second image seems to be the other side of the desk. There are manuscripts, but they are closed. The glasses have been removed; they and the books are resting during the in-between time as much as their owner. The difference is that in the portrait, while the creator is still, he is engulfed in fire. Everything in and around him - the stripes in his shirt, the shadows of his hand and face - flickers. What moves in his mind transcends mere thinking. But the setting before him is fixed and serene, patient in their waiting for him to act. 

After the transition is complete there will be a reliving of powerful moments, wondering at the imagination of the muse, but that will be alongside the wincing at troublesome areas and the dreaded killing of one's darlings. 

Friday, November 25, 2016


Both 4" x 4" woodcut stamps, printing with black oil-based ink on Bristol paper and hand-colored with watercolors.

The term "totem" has taken on a number of meanings that depart from the original Ojibwe, in which they refer to sacred symbols that represent a particular tribe. Nowadays many Westerners have come to regard totems as personal, spiritual guides, often symbolized by a particular animal. The broader interpretations and usages are perhaps most colorfully exhibited by Cirque du Soleil's use of "Totem" as title of their show that employs music, dance, acrobatics, and elaborate costumes and settings to connect themes in human evolution to multicultural creation stories.

Over the last couple years two babies were born to a good friend of mine, and I created small, square prints (Year of the Goat and Monkey and Scorpion) to celebrate their entry into the world. However, these two lucky boys have two older siblings, a big brother and sister, who I was not fortunate enough to know when they were born, but I have since had the honor of meeting in person.

The two prints featured here are for them. As in the first two prints, these "totems" attempt to creatively combine their Western and Eastern astrological signs. However, as they are for two older children who have already seen a number of seasons, formed strong, unique personalities, and have looked me in the eyes, I felt compelled to focus on faces, or perhaps masks, for this imagery. We are all so much more than a laundry list of our abilities and experiences. Totems can represent that greater wholeness.

“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke” -Vincent Van Gogh 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Harriet Matsaert's Mugumo Tree

Image posted with the permission of the artist. View more Harriet Matsaert's work at Turaco Illustrations. She says she is new to printmaking and that this is the first in a series of the Mugumo (fig) tree, regarded as sacred in Kenya where she lives.

I love the loose spontaneity found in the mark-making combined with the firm compositional grounding. Creatures of all sorts are engaged in daily goings-about on and around the thick and sturdy branch. All is set against a sunny glow that stretches across the horizon.  The green-blue shadows along both the bottom and top edges of the image allude to the cyclical nature of the days, the seasons, and the habits and tasks done over and over again. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"Large Marge Sent Me" by Brie Thompson

Image used with the permission of the artist. Brie Thompson's online store is Lake Effect Press. More images of her work in process can be found on her Instagram account. She is involved with the member-run, non-profit print studio Flight 64.

I'm particularly interested in this print for a number of selfish reasons. First, I'm working on a book that features a lot of dinosaur imagery. Second, it is a screenprint that used linocut as part of the process, and for my recent book project I learned to screenprint and have been figuring out how to best incorporate that method with my woodcuts. Third, it is bright and colorful, and I'm trying to get back to some of that in my work.

Of course I enjoy the blunt, kitschiness of this image. The giant "Eat" sign recalls memories of not just actual roadside diner advertisements, but similarly generic, get-right-down-to-the-point ads appearing in media for entertainment - television shows, movies, picturebooks. And then there's the big dinosaur, which appears more akin to plastic children's toys and cartoons than actual prehistoric carnivores.

But there is also something tragic in this fabricated beastie's lonesome stance against the yellow sky streaked with hasty markings. Something hollow in his black eyes and perfect row of tiny teeth. Something achingly compulsive about the giant sign that commands onlookers to do that which requires no encouragement.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Nautilus and Ammonite: Plesiosaur Pages

Plesiosaur  and Plesiosaur Fossil  
Double page spreads 11-12 and 13-14 
Screenprint, woodcut, linocut, watercolor, and collage on Rives BFK 
22” x 14” each 

Sometimes it's hard to get a project started, and other times it's difficult to complete one. Especially if the process is lengthy. I have already enjoyed many successes along the way to creating the artwork for my third book, but making final, permanent decisions about works can be rather daunting. Particularly, I worry about overworking a piece and inadvertently destroying the most lively aspects of what I've already done.

Just over a year ago I completed the storyboard, dummy book, and screenprinted backgrounds and began linocuts and woodcuts for the pages in The Nautilus and the Ammonite book. However, I had not yet finished any artwork of actual pages until this week. The idea for the project came almost two years ago, and I had done some preparatory work for it with sketches and learning to make screenprints, but the project really got off the ground during my residency last September at Sunny Point. Unfortunately, soon after that residency I ended having to sell my house and move, and so the project was put on the backburner for months, and it is only recently that I've been very slowly pulling myself (dragging, really) back into the mindset necessary to complete the work.

These are the first two completed artwork for double-page spreads, not including the text that will eventually be added. I was so afraid to pull the trigger on making final decisions for these works, but now that I've done it I am quite pleased with the results. I don't think I'll be diving back into this project at full speed, but this is at least the catalyst I needed to at least pick up the pace and feel more confident about the direction the project is taking.

The text that is meant to accompany these pages goes as such:

And the monsters vast of ages past
They beheld in their ocean caves;
They saw them ride in their power and pride,
And sink in their deep-sea graves.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Rodents at the Wagner

Yet even more drawings made from the collection at the Wagner Free Institute for Science where I work. Last time was skulls

The second drawing here is the beginnings of an idea for an accordion book. If I develop it further, I would turn these into woodcuts, most likely a color reduction similar to the techniques used for the art in Owl and Cat In Love

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Twin Sisters" (Wood Engraving)

2.25" x 5.25" (image) 3" x 6" (paper)
Oil-based ink on sand-colored paper with wooden particles and fibers 

This is my print for Baren Exchange #70 where the technique challenge is "in the style of/or Wood Engraving". My contribution perhaps falls into the category of "in the style of" since it is carved with a dremel (opposed to traditional wood engraving tools). The block used was end-grain Basswood. I completed an edition of 27 for the exchange and another limited edition of 15 to be used in a future promotional campaign for my book project The Nautilus and the Ammonite

Monday, October 24, 2016

"Elephant Skull"

2.5" x 4.75" (image) 3" x 6" (paper)
Oil-based ink on bright white paper 

This engraving is carved with a dremel and the block used was end-grain Basswood. The image is taken from my recent drawings from the collection at the Wagner Free Institute for Science. Earlier this week I also made engravings of a Dolphin Skull and Buffalo Skull

Sadly, this is a one of a kind print. I'm experimenting with wood engraving for the first time with some unconventional materials, and after creating this Artist's Proof I damaged the block while cleaning it, so no further edi
tion can be printed. Live and learn. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Two Pumpkins

This week I was drawing pumpkins, inspired by a trip to the Brumbaugh Fruit and Fun Farm in Arcanum, Ohio.

During my kids' yoga class this week I decided to play around with adding color to this drawing, and a girl I babysit was sitting next to me decided to draw her own pumpkin. I like her drawing (below) much better. Mine might be a more accurate representation of the shape of the pumpkin in question, but hers more honestly captures its pumpkin bumbiness.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

"Buffalo Skull"

1.5" x 2" (block) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based black ink on natural paper 

It's my second such engraving (my first posted earlier today in preparation for this one.) The image is taken from my recent drawings from the collection at the Wagner Free Institute for Science

I'm pretty excited about it. I want to play with my dremel more. Although I need to get some earplugs. My head is throbbing from the sound.   

"Dolphin Skull"

2" x 1.5" (block) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based black ink on grayish paper (not sure what types of paper. It was in my scrap stock.)

This is my first "wood" engraving. That's in quotations because I didn't actually engrave wood. Instead I engraved a Resingrave block, a product created to be used in the same way as end grain boxwood, which is the material traditionally used in wood engraving. The primary reason to use Resingrave is the cost is much less. (I purchased it from McClains.) Anyway, I'm not sure how I feel about either the experience or the final product yet other than that I enjoy appearance of the brittle mark-making.

I also didn't use traditional wood engraving tools. Instead I used a dremel. This decision was partially made because of the cost of investing in engraving tools (particularly since I'm just trying out this method for now) and partially because my hands have been hurting more and more frequently after carving and printing. I found using the dremel to feel very similar to using a wood burner, which is to say I had to move it across the surface slowly, apply varying amount of pressure, and the resistance encountered was surprisingly varied despite the Resingrave's uniformity.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Fish in Vase" Monotype

9" x 12"
Createx Monotype Colors on 140 lb. watercolor paper

Inspired by the work I had my young students making last week, I made some of my own layered-primary-color monotypes. Not satisfied with any of them, but it still was a useful exercise and I'd like to try again soon. This was the best of the lot.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Skulls at the Wagner

More drawings made from the collection at the Wagner Free Institute for Science where I work. Last time was birds, this time skulls. I'll probably go back later this month.

I am turning a couple of my skull drawings into small engravings. I have some Resingrave blocks (a more affordable alternative to end-grain boxwood for wood engraving) that were just waiting to be drawn on and carved.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Layered Monotypes by 3rd and 4th Graders

These are monotypes by students in my 2D Mixed Media after school class at the University City Arts League. Since it was a holiday and the public schools were closed I only had three students show up. But I liked their work so much I had to post it here. 

For the first layer, printed in blue, the students were instructed to cut out a shape which they taped to a piece of plexiglass. Then they rolled up the plexiglass with ink and removed the cut shape before printing. 

For the second layer, printed in red, the students rolled up the plexiglass plates in ink and then drew into them with Q-tips, then printed over the first print. 

For the final layer, printed in yellow, the students arranged torn pieces and strips of masking tape on the plexiglass before rolling it up with ink, removing the tape, and printing. 

I made an example along with them, but their work turned out much more interesting, as often happens in the classroom. That said, I think I feel inspired by my students to try this again tonight in my studio. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Drawing Sunflowers with Lysi

By now the sunflowers are bending over and all but a few have lost their yellow pedals. So this week Lysi and I decided to go outside and draw from ours before they are completely gone for the season. These are my favorite two drawings we did. Mine is to the left and Lysi's is below. Both are pencil drawings that we then elaborated on with watercolors and oil pastel resist and salt wash.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Tub Toys: "Sneaky Snark"

6" x 6"
Woodcut with watercolors on Stonehenge

Here is the last of 5 tub toy woodcuts I made this week. The others were "Splashy Crab", "Sated Gator", "Sea Star Veneer", and "Gleeful Turtle".

Goodnight, pinky. 

Tub Toys: "Gleeful Turtle"

6" x 6"
Woodcut with watercolors on Stonehenge

Here is the fourth of 5 tub toy woodcuts I'm messing around with this week. The first three were "Splashy Crab", "Sated Gator", and "Sea Star Veneer". I knew I wanted to write some brief text in cursive before I knew what I wanted to write. I decided on "rip and tear" because I imagined the turtle was ripping open the wrapping on a present, and I also liked the contrast of the subtle violence of the words with the overall soft and cheerful tone of the image. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Tub Toys: "Sea Star Veneer"

6" x 6"
Woodcut with watercolors on Stonehenge

Here is the third of 5 tub toy woodcuts I'm messing around with this week. The first two were "Splashy Crab" and "Sated Gator." Those two and the two that are coming are more cartoonish characters, where this tub toy was more of a flat, abstracted representation of the actual animal, thus I turned it into a sort of glib overlay.