Monday, January 16, 2017


There are some plants, pumpkins and squashes, for example, that grow faster at night,  in the hours just before dawn.
And there are some seeds, that without a period of darkness and an absence of light, won't germinate at all.

It is winter and the Solstice has just passed. The shortest day is now history but the nights are still long and cold and I awake to darkness and frost and brittle grass. The winter wheat the neighbors planted went in in November and will put roots down into the cold earth--as they're more hardy in the cold than the other seeds--and will gain a head start that will mean a good crop and grain for bread and pasta in a June and July that are still a distant dream.
Fava beans and peas are also already in the ground and have sprouted but just sit there,  with leaves limp and sad in the cold and damp as they will patiently wait for lengthening days and warmer temperatures to jump up and climb and unfurl leaves and tendrils.

I'm a gardener and therefore an optimist by nature.  But I'm frightened by the wind and chatter now.
Things are changing that the wise farmers didn't see coming.
There are seeds that have been planted for hundreds of years that are now gone, "disappeared" by companies that bought seed houses and catalogs and made them vanish or had them re-patented so they can no longer be saved and sown by the frugal or good farmer.
And they don't tell us but the water is dirtier than it's supposed to be and the air has particles in it that are too small to be measured easily and so are declared "well-below measurable limits".  So even my "organic" garden isn't. No more than anything alive is now free of radioactive isotopes from the atomic tests, bombs and nuclear disasters.
 And now the chemical and oil and pharmaceutical and pesticide and seed and food companies all become one and soon it will be illegal (maybe I'm paranoid) to save seed, or plant "unapproved" varieties, or grow vegetables on unreported plots--and all in the name of "food security" or to fight "bioterrorism".
I watch the news and I read the papers but for the first time that I can remember,  the people in charge want MORE oil exploration and pipelines,  more mining and more ocean drilling but fewer environmental protections for the air and water or labor regulations that guarantee worker and public safety.  They want no regulations to hamper business models that can be profitable only if they can shift the cost of clean up and waste removal to a distant public till and that are instead now encouraged to plunder and multiply while laws are passed that protect them, rather than us,  from liability for environmental damage or pollution.

I have never been a political activist but now I have no choice. I have to join the fight to keep them from poisoning the wells, darkening the skies and making a lifeless, plastic gel of what was once the water of life or stealing the birthright of future generations, the germplasm of all the crops that have ever been sown in soil worked by honest men and women. So I am attending meetings and writing letters and supporting those that are still working to conserve and protect but I will also go back to my little plot of soil.

So I will plant a garden this spring and record in a diary the day the first anemonies flower or the grape buds swell, the day of the first asparagus on the table and the first and last of the English peas.  I will plant some of the old varieties and grow food that the peasants knew and flowers that have different names in different lands. Some we eat, some I draw. As farmers have done for longer than memories can recall, we eat the stunted and challenged plants. For the best plants, strong and defiant, are allowed to set seed are not eaten but saved. They are saved for next year's seed.  We select out the best, the ones that thrived in my soil and today's climate to plant next year and for the year after that, and the one after that, and so on, or so we can hope.
It is dark outside but not yet night.
I wonder what will come up in the garden this year and what will be there to harvest.

Notes; "Seedling" is a moku hanga, watercolor woodblock print. 8.25" x 11.7" and was printed from 4 blocks with 8 separate color impressions on handmade Japanese paper (Shin Hosho). e.v. 10 copies.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Japanese Woodblock workshops in 2017: February in Florence

I'm starting to organize some short and long workshops in moku hanga/Japanese woodblock for 2017.
 My first 2017 introductory class--a 2-day crash course in the basics of watercolor woodblock prints will be held in the San Giovanni School of Art, the cooperative studio I share with 3 other artists on other side of the Arno from the city center.
One of the studios has recently vacated so I have room to host a group with space for at least 6 participants plus room to demonstrate carving and printing.

My February class is now open:
Feb 18 and 19, 10a-6p, limited to 6 students (4 places are still open as of today)
Via San Giovanni 23, Firenze--near Porta San Frediano/Viale Ariosto--easy access to the train station and adjacent (but only intermittently vacant) parking.
€180 for the class includes inscription, materials (2 blocks, paper and pigments) the use of our studio's sharp, student-grade and professional level tools, chisels, and barens for printing.
In addition, the tools used during the workshop: a set of 5 basic knives and gouges, a student baren, and a Japanese stencil brush can be purchased after the class at cost.
Students will be able to print a small edition of a 2-4 color print during this 2-day intensive class.
Email me for information and inscription details at:

2017 18 & 19 Febbraio: Corso introduttivo di moku hanga--la xilografia giapponese.
Sabato e Domenica 10a-6pm;
Via San Giovanni 23,  L'Accademia d'Arte San Giovanni
Zona San Frediano/Viale Ariosto. Facilmente raggiungibile dalla stazione con l'autobus o a piedi o con i mezzi propri. 
Prezzo del corso e' €180 (€150 corso e €30 materiale: 2 blocchi shina (tiglio japonica), carta, pigmenti e l'uso durante il corso di attrezzi, baren e sgorbie professionale e da studenti del nostro laboratorio.). Gli studenti possono creare il loro stampa di 2-4 colori e stampare una piccola edizione su carta giapponese.   Il docente e Andrew Stone, Americano che da 12 anni lavora principalmente con questa tecnica. Il workshop si svolgera' in Inglese ed Italiano.
Limitato a 6 studenti.
Per inscrizione o informazione contattare Andrew Stone;
C'e un sconto disponibile per studenti e soci LAILAC.

Ravenna (Fall 2017)
Padova (not yet confirmed)
Also I'm hoping to repeat my 2 or 3-day class in Ravenna in October and perhaps teach in a new venue in Padova in late Spring or early Summer. 
Plus I'm getting increasing interest for small sessions (1-2 people)  interested in single day or half-day sessions in the basics---image management and carving, basic and advanced printing, managing registration with multiple blocks, printing an edition with good paper and assistance so I hope to set up a series of day classes with a structured but flexible set of units.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A few more "miracles"--printing variants and one for the dumpster.

This copy is on Magnani incisioni and is my favorite.
I started with just one sheet of Echizen Kozo, a high-quality, pre-sized 100% kozo paper. I got 10 pieces of paper from the one sheet and I also printed several versions onto what was probably Magnani incisioni, an Italian, sized, etching paper.

With just a few sheets and working with multiple thin layers of color, there's a lot of variability to the final prints. I gradually went darker and darker, not sure that I liked them on the pale side, but then looking at the darker ones, I chose not to darken the early ones to make them uniform as I still wasn't convinced.  So in the series, they go from a paler dark blue sky, to a darker pale blue sky with more or less bokashi to the lower field.

The two prints on Magnani incisioni started to resist the color (there may have been a little oil in one of the pigments) and the one I pulled out early--a hazy, glowing light blue/purple/pink version at the top of the page--is my favorite of the lot.  The darker blue one at the bottom had to be blotted as the color sat on the surface and puddled and is a bit smeared--but not really ruined.
The only reject was this one;

I should know better but every now and then I get distracted.

Final tally:

Modern Miracles, (rain for Aleppo).
e.v. 10 and 1 A/P
image is 8" x 6"; paper size is 8"x10".

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Modern Miracles-Rain for Aleppo

Aleppo, 2016. "Planes are more than birds, and bombs are more than rain," one resident said of the Syrian air force's renewed blitz. (CNN; 11/18/2016).

It is written that Fire and Brimstone fell from the sky and destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
But then it was a wrathful god laying waste to cities populated with only sinners and immoral men and women.  Now we live in a New Age and the men without morals, mercy or a shred of goodness are not to be wiped from the earth but are instead the ones sending the planes and dropping the bombs and the canisters of gas on the sleeping cities below. Today, we don't need holy books to tell us what is happening, as we can watch the bombs fall live on small flickering screens until we turn them off or simply scroll past the images of dead infants, and dust-covered, bloody children and crying men, mutilated soldiers and buildings that aren't buildings anymore. 

I watched the you tube video of cluster bombs falling at night in the Syrian village of Aleppo.
I thought they were strangely beautiful to look at, and they reminded me of the shooting stars my children and I had stayed up late to watch when the Perseid meteor shower occurred earlier this year.  But I knew these were bombs and not meteorites and the footage on the news that followed was horrifying and I was overcome by an incredible sense of shame and helplessness in the wake of image after image of the violence and death being showered on these poor, trapped residents in a city besieged in a modern war by forces with no qualms about the killing of  unarmed residents using chemical weapons or through indiscriminate bombing raids with weapons that will kill large number of civilians as well as their intended military targets. 

**Cluster bombs are weapons that can be ground fired or dropped from aircraft that contain multiple (from as few as 4 to 100's) of smaller explosive devices that spread to detonate over a large area. They are designed to kill multiple troops and to destroy and disable military vehicles but they are plagued by a high failure rate where large numbers of the small and sometimes toylike bomblets do not detonate. It is estimated that 40% of casualties from cluster weapons are civilians, and a large percentage of these are children--during attacks and often after hostilities have ceased. "Cluster munitions pose an immediate threat to civilians during conflict by randomly scattering submunitions or bomblets over a wide area. They continue to pose a threat post-conflict by leaving remnants, including submunitions that fail to explode upon impact becoming de facto landmines. The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions. It also requires destruction of stockpiles, clearance of areas contaminated by remnants, and victim assistance. More than 115 states have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions and are working to implement its provisions. Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the Cluster Munition Coalition and contributes to its annual Cluster Munition Monitor report. " (Human Rights Watch).

***The cluster bombs falling on Aleppo are being dropped by both Syrian government and Russian forces (although they both deny it) but these images could easily have been of conflicts in Yemen, or Afghanistan, or Lebanon.
There is an international ban since 2008 on the use of Cluster bombs but countries that make them or have large stockpiles, or use them regularly in conflicts have not adhered to the international accord. While 118 countries have signed the agreement, the USA, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, Israel, and many other countries are NOT signatories to the accord and continue to make and use these munitions during conflicts.

The last US manufacturer of Cluster weapons has only this year declared that they will stop manufacturing them in 2017 (but will honor existing orders and deliveries) citing among other things, falling demand.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


 I have a few more layers down, working off two background blocks. There's a very pale carmine bokashi background that went down first, then a pale yellow bokashi and now and then an ultramarine blue followed by another orange glaze.

Rain is expected so I'll be able to escape to the studio and I hope to finish this in the next day or so. 

Probably 2 more color passes to go.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Miracles--Bokashi 2 of x?

The second color from the other day.
This block is pretty much retired. Now I'm going to be playing with the background using 2 blocks to selectively mask and enhance these shapes.
But most of what you see is going to disappear.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


While I have a couple of print ideas bouncing around my head,  I started this with no advance planning.  It started as a test block--I was testing the sharpness of the V-gouges I sharpened for class and the cheap, thin stock I was cutting--here they call it fromager (cheese?) wood and I haven't yet figured out what it would be called in English--cut cleanly with the just-sharpened tools. It's soft and has a prounounced grain but doesn't look like it will hold any detail.

From the test block came an idea, and I cut another block to match the first and a few test prints later I was at the printing bench. The two blocks are complementary--they're positive and negative but also coarse vs. elegant and they'll be working with and against each other as this print progresses.

 Here's the rough test of the cut block printed on bond paper--
and below, the same block, now cleaned up and printed in yellow, on good Japanese washi.

This is the first of many bokashi printings to come.
I printed a second color tonight but didn't have time for photos.

I set it all aside in the damp pack for a few days as I have more olives to pick (we're making olive oil) and until the rains start, I'm needed in the fields. But I'm hoping to start printing the second block in the next couple of days.

I'm still hopeful that this might come out and
happy as all get out to be printing on Echizen Kozo again.