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