Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Collabortive Dino Linos: Sunset Return

Linocut over watercolor (unique print) 
11.5" x 9" on 140 lb. watercolor paper 

This is the last of four collaborative dinosaur linocuts I've made with my daughters. The first three were posted here, here, and here. As with the third, this print is based on a drawing by my 4-year-old daughter Bebe. 

Clouds roll in, the moon sits high, and the air has begun to cool. Darkness is coming. 

Collaborative Dino Linos: A Perilous Valley

Linocut over watercolor (unique print) 
11.5" x 9" on 140 lb. watercolor paper 

This is the third collaborative dinosaur print I've made with my daughters. The first were posted here and here. They were both based on drawings by my older daughter. This print is based on a drawing by my younger, 4-year-old daughter Bebe. 

I walk, but unsteady, continuing to move forward, though the rising wall and turbulent atmosphere does not bode well for my future. 

Collaborative Dino Linos: Ailing

Linocut over watercolor (unique print) 
11.5" x 9" on 140 lb. watercolor paper 

This is the second collaborative dinosaur prints I've made with my daughters. The first was posted here. This print was based on a drawing by Lysi, my 7-year-old. 

The colors are pretty and playful, but everything here  makes us sick. 

Collaborative Dino Linos: Hitting the Wall

Linocut over watercolor (unique print) 
11.5" x 9" on 140 lb. watercolor paper

This is another collaboration with my 7 year old daughter. (The first can be seen here.) I've resumed work on the Nautilus and the Ammonite project and I decided I need some children's drawings of dinosaurs in the background of one of the double-page spreads. However, I'm also using the blocks to make some one-off finished works in their own right such as this. This is also building on what I started with these screen prints made last year.

For this piece I instructed Lysi to draw a T-Rex from a specific reference, and then I turned her drawing into a linocut. I did a watercolor painted background before printing. I'm working on a few of these, and with each I'm trying to not have strong expectations about the final product and frequently pause and with each decision carefully respond to what has already happened. In this case the drawing of the dinosaur struck me as rather emaciated, which drove me to give him a grey, flat, and empty environment and to leave the carved marks in front of his face that suggest he's walking into a wall, in the sense of being hungry and out of options.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Students in Clark Park

For this week's installment of Sketchbook Sunday I've decided to feature sketches I did of my 3rd-5th grade students at the University City Arts League. Last week I had the students made small, bound sketchbooks and this week we took a walk to Clark Park and did some sketching outdoors. I intended to get a sketch of each of my 8 students, however I only captured a glimpse of 7 because one wouldn't stay in one spot for long enough for me to find him. As is probably obvious from these sketches, none of the kids stayed put in one place for very long. Ah, well, life is fleeting.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Deborah Anne Bowen's Jumping Fox

Deborah Anne Bowen has made a number of wonderful woodcuts of Berlin foxes (check on her art blog here), including an exquisite accordion book/wordless picture book titled Diary of a Viktoriapark Fox.

This pair of foxes isn't featured in that book, but it is my favorite of Bowen's fox prints. I adore the moment of tension just before the leaping friend lands on the unsuspecting sleeper. I love the warm playfulness of these fuzzy actors set against the stark and stoic background. It somehow seems wintry, without depicting any literal snow or other signs of the season (although it was created to be a New Year's card). I almost wanted to save posting about this print until winter, but I've been looking so much at Bowen's foxes, I simply had to feature this graceful print now. Maybe I long for winter. Maybe I just feel that the year is new because it is the start of the school year after a long, hot summer.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Bebe's Walk Through Wissahickon Park

This is my first "Sketchbook Sunday." The idea is that every Sunday I will share some of the sketches I have done during the week on this blog. It is part of the year-long AIRM program that I started on September 15. I have pledged to find a way to resume a regular sketchbook process and to find ways to integrate it into my work as both a stay-at-home mom and teaching artist. Weekly documentation of some of the sketches is a way to keep me accountable.

This week my daughters and I took a walk in the Wissahickon park trails and my 4-year-old daughter Bebe took a bunch of photographs with my cell phone. Later Bebe and I did two collaborative mixed-media sketches. I'd start out drawing in watercolor crayons from her photograph, and then she'd make suggestions and draw or paint over some of what I did. We talked about what we were doing as it went. The first image is a fairly straightforward image of me holding up a flower.

The second became increasingly imaginative. It started out from a photograph that Bebe had taken of some grass, rocks, and her own feet. I drew the feet, and then she started to fill out the rest. She wanted to have Thumbelina emerging from a rose, and imagined that the feet were Thumbelina's human mother's. Bebe found our first version of Thumbelina very unsatisfying, which is why we ended up printing out a Victorian lady to glue over top and then sewed on a swatch of fabric for her skirt (because the lady we printed out was cut off just below the waist.)

The third sketch here is a drawing I made with conte crayons from a photo Bebe took of her own shadow.

Collaborative Linocut with Lysi: "The X Dress"

This is a 6" x 9" (full bleed) linocut with hand watercolor painting. It is a collaborative piece by me and my 7-year-old daughter Lysi. It started as a drawing (second image below) she did from observation of her little sister Bebe. Bebe was kneeling down at coffee table drawing, and Lysi and I were sitting on a couch behind her. I gave her a couple suggestions and pointed out some details when she became frustrated, but she drew it all herself. I loved the drawing so much that later I transferred it to a linoblock and turned it into a print so we could make colored versions. The first image here is the one I colored. Lysi colored the one with baloons and another girl in the background (the original drawing was done at a friend's birthday party) and the final version was colored by Bebe.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Getting Back on Track

Any artist who is also a parent of young children will tell you it is tough to find a work/home life balance. Artists need lengths of time to be seemingly idle, but the time is really for reflection and the seeking out and absorption of new sources of inspiration. Parenting young kids means much more time and mental energy spend on scheduling and maintaining consistent daily routines where we are focusing on their thoughts, feelings, and needs. Our lives end up regimented, and our free time scarce and chopped up into small segments. It can be a rich and inspirational experience, but it can also be stressful, tedious, and draining. It is tempting to collapse every night into shallow television, web surfing, social media, or other means of escape. Maintaining a highly productive artistic practice while parenting seems to require a hefty amount of discipline. But, then, truly any productive artistic practice, even though we love what we do, requires discipline. Parenting really only intensifies this necessity.

When I had my first child, I immediately felt my studio discipline begin to slip away. Like many new mothers, I felt portions of my identity begin to fade. More than anything else, I was now mom. While I felt great when I was with my baby, around other adults, I often felt insecure, especially if they asked about my work. I soon realized that I needed to take action to reverse this trend, and was thrilled when I discovered Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way, which is really a self help instruction guide for artists to find a way to again tap into our creative flow and start to create again. I followed the program, and it resulted in me starting this blog and eventually working up to an average of 15-20 hours a week of consistent studio practice. The blog has been hugely successful, now averaging 12 posts and over 3,000 unique viewer hits per month. It has helped put me in touch with other printmakers, which lead to me joining the Baren Forum and beginning to participate in regular print exchanges with colleagues around the globe. My practice lead me to do my 30 prints in 30 days, and I'm still selling and expanding on work I created that month. It lead to me creating the art for Cats A-Z and Owl and Cat In Love, and then launch my independent press with two successful Indiegogo crowd-funding campaigns to fund the publication of both of those books last year. I made enough work that my hands began to suffer, so this year I purchased a medium sized press to ease the labor.

Well, it's happened again - I entered another slump. I had a particularly difficult year (for reasons that had nothing to do with my studio practice) and at the end of it all I almost stopped completely making work. One month passed, then another, then another, until over half a year passed by without me working on any of the big projects I had started or beginning anything else particularly ambitious. Every time I think of something to do, I almost immediately then think "What's the point?" or "I just don't care enough to do that right now." The longer it has gone on, the worse I feel, which makes it that much more difficult to overcome. I have finally gotten to the point where I realize I need another jump start. I considered doing Cameron's guide again, but that feels like going backward. I need something new.

Which brings me to Lenka Clayton's Arist in Residency in Motherhood (AIRM.) Clayton is an artist who attended several artist residencies in her career before having children, but after becoming a parent she discovered that she had a difficult time figuring out how to work in her new environment. She felt, as many artist-parents do, that her role as parent was at odds with her role as artist. Her solution was to change her mindset by re-framing her experience as a working artist mom as its own unique kind of residency and to integrate her parenting experience into her artistic practice. She did this using a number of tools including designating a specific timeframe for her AIRM, writing a manifesto, made a list of her residency's necessary components, applied for (and received) a grant to help fund her experience, created physical reminders and documentation, and appointed mentors.

Lenka has since decided to share and spread her AIRM concept to other parent artists. Interested artists can sign up, use the tools she created, request a mentor, join a facebook group for community and support, and be placed on the world map of participants. There is also the possibility of receiving a $999 grant called the "Red Thread", although this is really more of an interest-free, flexible loan because recipients are expected to pay it forward to another recipient in the future. All and all it looks like a rather neat concept and one that I think will genuinely help me reconnect with my muse and re-ignite my consistent studio practice.

I've signed up to complete my own AIRM starting today and lasting  through September 15, 2017 (exactly one year.) I have filled out the questions in the planning tool in order to determine what it is that I need and the resources I already have and that can help get me to where I want to be. I have written a manifesto and have a number of tasks and goals. I joined the Facebook group and have started reading the posts of other artists in order to gain encouragement and a sense of connection to others successfully dealing with the same challenges. Hopefully the coming year will result in the creation of work that enriches my and my audience's experience of life, strengthens my relationships with my family, other artists, and my audience, and compels me to develop the sort of mindset and habits that will continue for years beyond the date of completion. I am eager to start the journey.

Monday, September 12, 2016

"Monkey and Scorpion"

4" x 4" woodcut stamp, printing with black oil-based ink on Stonehenge paper and hand-colored with watercolors.

Last year I created a print titled Year of the Goat to commemorate the birth of my friend's son. I had the good fortune to meet the little man with his mom and older siblings for the first time this year. He was a calm and curious soul.

This year my friend's family expands further with the expected birth of another son! I have created this print based on both the Western (Scorpio) and Chinese (Monkey) astrological signs associated with baby's due date. The egg from the last print re-occurs, although this time it is encircled by the associated totem animals. Last time I used Celtic knots for the border. This time I went with an Asian-influenced floral design. The softness of the flower pedals is contrasted with the sharp points of the leaves that break through the circular border, just as the softness of the monkey is balanced by the scorpion's fearsome claws and stinger. May this child be both clever and courageous!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

"Thunderbird Glacier" by Bruce Crownover

This week I was deeply saddened to read an article about how a tenth of the world's wilderness has been lost since the 1990's. Whenever I read about such issues of environmental concern - mass extinctions, deforestation, melting glaciers, and so on - I tremble at the realization that even in my short, human lifetime (a blink of an eye in geological time) I am witnessing that which is so grand and irreplaceable vanish.

Three artists, relief printmakers Bruce Crownover and Todd Anderson, and photographer Ian van Coller, recently created a large and stunning art book that documents their experiences hiking together in the Glacier National Park. This is one of the reductive woodblock prints by Crownover. It is my favorite from the set because of the dramatic color contrast that sandwiches the stark white of the glacier, thus giving the impression that the ice is both a presence and a jagged space where something has been erased.

More information about the project can be found at Crownover's website here. The book is titled The Last Glacier, and a video flip-through of the entire set of works can be viewed here. I have no idea if all 15 of the copies in the small edition have yet found their permanent homes, but inquiries about price and availability can be made here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Playing Drums

The image is 6" x 8" and the paper is 8" x 10". It is a white line woodcut printed with watercolors on 120 lb. watercolor paper. 

My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony.

-Fernando Pessoa 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

"Cloud Dream"

The image is 11" x 8". It is a white line woodcut printed with watercolors on 140 lb watercolor paper. 

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. -John Lubbock