Saturday, September 30, 2017

"Poor Richard's Owl" by Rick Allen

I am intrigued by the pairing of this particular phrase from Ben Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac with such a lively caricature of this most impressive bird of prey, the Grey Owl.

Both hunting and worrying compel us to narrow our focus while raising our sense of urgency.

More wood engravings from Kenspeckle LetterPress can be found here.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Studio Play in Five Acts

Last year we went to Home Depot to buy a live tree to decorate for the holidays. After we selected a tree, an employee sliced off the bottom of the trunk and tossed the slice into a pile of tree slices. I asked if I could take some, and he said sure. They've been sitting in a corner of my studio for months.

This is one of those tree slices.

Today I covered it in black watercolor paint.

And printed it on a smooth piece of paper just to see how it looked.

Next I wanted to see what it would look like printed on more absorbent, handmade paper. The watercolors bled into blobby shapes that somewhat matched the irregular deckle of the paper.

It reminded me of an egg, so I printed it again on a different piece of handmade paper that reminded me of a  nest. I found this mildly amusing.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Barn Owl" (Hand Colored Version)

Here is the first hand-colored version of my "Barn Owl" linocut. I posted the black and white proof a couple days ago here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Student Monotypes with Watercolor and Sharpie Drawing

I taught a new monotype lesson for my 2nd-6th grade students in 2D Mixed Media class at the University City Arts League. I had the student make pencil drawings, then slip those drawings under a piece of plexiglass, paint it in with watercolors, the print. After the prints completely dried the kids took Sharpie markers and re-drew over top the monotypes, sometimes choosing to radically change the drawing in response to the colors and textures on the paper. I love how these turned out and I'm definitely doing this project again in the future.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

"Barn Owl"

6" x 6" (block) linocut

I've decided to publish an Owl Calendar for 2018. This is partially inspired by the gorgeous Molly Hashimoto bird calendar that has been hanging in my kitchen all year. Earlier this year I created two owl linocuts - Eastern Screech Owl and Black Banded Owl - and I have decided that they were a good start for a calendar. The finished product will feature the hand-colored versions.

Today I printed the first proof of the third print for the calendar - a barn owl. I'm excited to see how it will look with color later this week.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Madre" by Virginia Maluk Manzano

Today I received prints from Baren Forum Exchange #73. There were several stunning woodcuts, but this portrait particularly struck me. The overall impression seemed both naturalistic and complex in its structure, but the more I examine the details, the more I appreciate both an economy of line and a strangeness of how the planes of the face are put together. There is something exquisitely otherworldly about the twist above the nose and the way the cheeks and mouth are described. This not merely the illustration of an aging face. It is something more cryptic.

More of Virginia Maluk Manzano's artwork can be found at her website here.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sketchbook Sunday: Barred Owl on Handmade Paper

This year I learned to make paper. I learned about and made paper along with campers at the Community Arts Center with Summer Spree Fellow Carol Gannon. I took workshops with Cozy Bendesky at Historic Rittenhouse Town, using seeds, leaves, and flower pedals, and plants, and then did the open vats workshop.

So now I have all this random handmade paper, some of which I have plans to print on, but lots of which I have no plans for yet. And I've been really lazy about doing my Sketchbook Sundays, so the obvious solution is to start drawing on some of this lovely paper. Here's my first attempt: a barred owl in flight.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

"Sunset Glow at Sakurajima" by Hagiwara Hideo

We claw our way up and tumble back down, and now drift by, slowly, silently, in the waning light of day, witnessing the exquisite aftermath of erosion.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Pilgrimage to Dog Mountain

Last week I finally made it to Dog Mountain, the home of artist Stephen Huneck's gallery and Dog Chapel in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont. I have been a great fan of Huneck's colorful woodcuts for years. I first wrote about his work in 2011 on the one-year anniversary of Huneck's passing.

This year was the perfect time for my family to take this trip. For one, we said goodbye to our beloved, 19-year-old cat Aubrey a few months ago, and were able to pay tribute to him at the Dog Chapel. For another thing, we just adopted our first dog - a friendy, spunky Australian Shepherd named Choban.

These are some of the photographs I took while visiting Dog Mountain. I highly recommend the trip for any lovers of dogs, cats, woodcuts, and wood carvings. More information about the place can be found at the website.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dinosaur Monotype

Well, the school year has certainly hit the ground running. My mind is packed full of curriculum I've been designing and trying to learn the names of all my new students.

This is a monotype of a dinosaur I made this week. I don't have much to say about it other than I like it and it was fun to make.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Margaret Preston and Cultural Appropriation

I've always aesthetically enjoyed carvings and paintings of Australian Aborigine culture. Recently I became curious about whether any contemporary indigenous Australian artists had translated their traditional styles into works including woodcut printmaking. But all my searches are overwhelmed with the fine art prints of Margaret Preston.

Preston was a highly prolific and acclaimed modernist painter and printmaker. Last year I blogged about her The Bark Bag. Much of Preston's work directly references Aboriginal styles and motifs by integrating them into her compositions. Many works, such as the one featured here, are essentially reproductions of indigenous works. Seeing all this, I began to assume that Preston must be at least partially of Aboriginal ancestry. But she was not.

Preston was drawn to the Aboriginal work for many of the same reasons I am - based on aesthetic arrangements that struck her as fresh, striking, and beautiful. When interpreted through the philosophical lens of Modernism and imitated by her, Preston thought such styles and motifs to have universally appealing qualities that would transcend cultural and ethnic boundaries between people of European and indigenous ancestry, and thus be employed to establish a distinct and unified national art for Australia.

But what these imitations and Modernist interpretations also do is negate the meaning and purpose the original, indigenous works had for the people who created them. When I view works by indigenous peoples' (or historical works of art, for that matter) they are accompanied by information that sets them in context, presumably because that context is of utmost significance to fully understanding the works. The art and the anthropology cannot be separated without losing something essential to the work. I first viewed artwork by contemporary Australian Aborigine artists at the U Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and included were written, photo, and video explanations that attempted to give outsiders such as myself some broader understanding of what the works meant. Sure, I still enjoy the works on a purely aesthetic level, and I also cannot help but interpret them in my own way based largely on how my mind and eye have been trained to see them. But I don't pretend that my artistic sensibility - that is influenced by my own subjective cultural experiences - is somehow more universal and of greater significance than that of the artists foreign to me.

We cannot help but be influenced by what we see all around us. Picasso's art was profoundly effected by his exposure to traditional African sculptures and masks. Matisse's art was heavily influenced by his exposure to Japanese wood block prints. Japanese art has been influenced by waves of exposure to foreign cultures (primarily Chinese) transformed and made their own by Japanese artists. I don't know if there is a hard line between cultural misappropriation and the sort of cultural diffusion that is inevitable and oftentimes transformative.

Sadly, I don't find many of Margaret Preston's works which obviously feature Aboriginal styles and motifs transformative. The references are too blatant. Maybe I'm missing something, but many strike me as little more than the observational studies of an outsider. Like when an art student sits in a museum making a copy of a masterwork.