Sunday, July 3, 2016

Summer Smile

Summer Smile, moku hanga-watercolor woodblock print. 5"x7" 2016.
It's here already.
There is so much that I meant to do before it got hot. And so much to do before I leave again.
I can't even begin to make a list.
But it's already too hot.
I sit in front of a table fan and wait for the sweat to evaporate and my head to clear.
Maybe some ice tea.
Or a slice of melon.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Day Late. A shell pea saga and metaphor for life.

A day late.....
As they used to say in New England. "old peas are bad business".
The harvest window for fresh shell peas is very short. Too soon and they're really tiny (but very sweet). Later, as the peas start to fill the pod, the pod is still shiny and green and the peas are tender and sugary. Too old and they get hard and starchy. There's a brief period (1-2 days) when they're perfect. Plump but not crowded and still round(ish) and tender and sweet and full of the flavor that is totally "Spring". But if you procrastinate even 1 day to pick them you can taste the difference. More than that and there's the internal debate as to whether you should pick them at all.  It's a dilemma for the farmer as the yield when they're small is really, really low, but if you wait just a couple more days, they're big and fat and (when you sell by the pound) almost profitable (but much less tasty).  But here they sell for 6-7€/kg (about $3.50/lb.) and if they're picked when they're small, you need a really long row have enough to harvest. Add to that the fact that peas needed to be sold the day they are picked or the sugars in the pea turn to starch--in the same way that the old-time corn varieties need to be cooked and eaten right away and it's the rare farmer than makes a profit selling shell peas.     These are Progress No. 9 Dwarf Shell peas. Planted in early Spring (rather than the Fall as is the usual custom here) AND Picked a few days AFTER that fleeting, perfect moment.

Many market growers now grow only Sugar Snap or similar Snap Peas.
They stay sweet longer and as the whole pea is edible it's a much better deal for the farmer and the consumer. (easier to pick, much longer harvest window and better value to both). 
The really hard ones, already a pale yellow and corrugated I left in the field.

Since I grew these we eat them. Cooked with some fresh garlic, some salt, and a pinch of sugar (to make up for what isn't in the peas any longer) they were still pretty decent.  Or braised with the last baby artichokes, a little wild fennel frond, some lettuce leaves and a few stray asparagus spears and they still vanish from the table in a flash, even if they're not so pretty.

P.S.S. This is why frozen, baby peas are probably a good value.  They're picked all at once by a combine and immediately blanched and frozen and at the scale they're grown commercially, much less costly to buy for a product that is usually of high quality (baby peas) and better than you can find  in the market unless you have a farmer that's better organized and attentive than I am.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


It's fast becoming Summer and the grass is growing faster than I can even think about cutting it.
In the fields are witchgrass, rye, wheat, and many others but the showiest in mid-May are the individual plants or stands or fields of oats (avena sativa).

 I've enjoyed listening to the birds and watching the young immature flowers/seeds swing and dangle in the breeze--akin to watching the flickering of a fire or the lapping of the waves. Rhythmic and predictable; so barely but infinitely variable.

I've been cutting them and bringing them in and I have carafes and jam jars, water glasses and vases full of stems and stalks.
Green dangling jewels like earrings or bangles or dry, spiny, bearded, spring-loaded seed heads or the flags they leave behind--"we're off, we're off" for the wind to rustle.
 Here are a few oat-inspired etagami.
The Japanese reads, "they invented dance"--my way of acknowledging the seeming joyful swaying and and almost synchronous ballet of fields of little green ballerinas.
Above, instead is a drypoint print--the sprig of green, immature oats drawn and then incised with a sharp point onto a flattened, recycled, Tetrapak container, and printed with a small press.

Friday, May 20, 2016

More naked (caution--drawings of naked women by REAL artists)

I cut a third block and printed a few copies for a color version of my nude woodblock print.
This is on a thin, home-sized kozo washi 40g/m2 and now mounted onto thicker paper so it lies flat.
I'll probably print a few more to have a small edition (e.v.) on good washi in this color version.

It's no longer abstract so harder to read as or mistake for a flower or tree.
I like to think I'm channeling Schiele more than Courbet but either way I'm 100-150 years too late and both did a better job with the subject.
Schiele's female nude with red stockings (1914)

Courbet's "origin of the universe" 1866

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


"mons Veneris", A/P. 2016;  watercolor wood block print (moku hanga).
Printed from 2 blocks on Magnani etching paper for the Baren Forum's 68th print exchange.
I scribbled this in the margin of a notebook with a felt-tip pen. But it could just as easily been sand or clay, or on a tile wall or the peeling paint of an old building.
Totem or magic? Symbol of desire or of power? Sex or the power of birth? But decidedly
NOT a metaphor of Art or Beauty nor an idealized form of the perfect body.
One squiggly and jagged line that becomes legs and pubis and vulva.
Nude as in naked, the person unclothed, without the personalities that wait in our closets to be put on mornings and we take off at night.

Elbows and pubic hair, callouses and wrinkles and surgical scars are all as worthy of my time as a vase of flowers, the view from my window,  or a bowl of fruit in the afternoon light.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Boxwood sandwich

I'm participating in the Baren Forum's next print exchange,  due May 1st.  The theme is "the nude" and the paper size is restricted to an 8"x8" square.
I've had a good idea all along what I was going to do, but haven't been able to get any chunks of work time in to make any progress.

I'll be doing a figurative piece, with mostly line work, and I'll need to be able to carve some thin lines.
For that I like cherry or maple...but the pieces I have of those woods were too big and I didn't want to cut them down to a smaller size.  So,  I pulled out the rest of the boxwood plank I've been saving.

But since it's pretty thin--7mm and will warp badly during water-based printing, I decided to laminate it to a piece of plywood to make a warp-resistent block that will allow for more detailed cutting.  In this case I used a piece of 3-ply Shina---you can only carve one side since it's so thin and I glued the side with the seam to the box so I'll be able to use the good side as a second plate.
The boxwood will be for the fine lines of my drawing and the Shina side will be used for a color beta ban impression (the water-based woodblock version of chine colle) that will flatten the paper to allow for cleaner printing while adding a base tone to the paper.

The box got scraped smooth with my metal scraper, and then finished with 1200 grit sandpaper.
Today I glued down my sketch and this weekend I'm hoping for a carving marathon....

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Leporello experiments. Prototype Artist Book-Card-Woodblock-Etagami-Thing.

I took a rather disappointing workshop a few weeks ago that was supposed to be (I thought) about constructing simple artist books. We didn't spend the day as I had hoped, but I saw enough in the first few minutes to be able to put into practice what had been my original idea--I wanted to try to make a simple artist book that would be relatively easy to put together, but not appear too crude or "craftsy".
The leporello, a small, unbound booklet is usually made accordian-style and it allows for all kinds of modifications in materials, style and final appearance. 


I threw this together as a sort of prototype of a book project that I've been thinking about that will combine moku hanga woodblock printed paper with text or type (think letterpress) as well as hand carved and printed words and images.  I had some proofs of my cypress tree print that I made during a recent demonstration and I cut some 3mm hardboard to a size that would approximate the front and back covers. These were covered with Maroon bookcloth and the carefully folded print was also glued down (PVA) to the front and back covers.
 I drew some text with sumi ink (written with a broom straw dipped in ink) in the manner of my English-language etagami and added my hand-carved chop/stamp.

(My apologies in advance to all my readers that are actual book binders or have skill and expertise in sewing book bindings and hand made artist books...this is a crude thing so please be kind).

It has a nice "object" feel. It's heavy enough and neat enough to look finished.
There is the risk that it has merely become a nice greeting card....(my simple phrase pushes it in that direction)...
But I think if the print is actually interesting enough--using the right paper and an image and handling that is a little spontaneous, the possibilities are intriguing enough to try something a little more important.