Monday, December 27, 2010


Calicantus, watercolor and pencil 8" X 10"

Chimonanthus praecox_-- Calicanto in Italian--fitting since the only bush I've ever seen sits in my mother-in-law's Italian garden.

I like it for its rather wintry, austere angular form; unprepossessing in its drabness. It's a bony plant, somber and sad in Winter when the leaves are off but it carries a scent that invites meditation and introspection.

I've been trying to do a still life/watercolor of this plant for years. The snows abrubtly ended the day after we arrived and 5 full days of steady rain made for some indoor painting.

It blooms in late December or early January and is one of the few truly fragrant winter flowers. As a garden plant it is a bit drab and coarse; it makes an oval shrub 2-3meters in height and 2 in width. The leaves are lanceolate and a nice yellow green in Spring and Summer but it Winter, if they don't just fall off, turn a vague parchment/paper yellow brown.

The flowers are small, dime-sized and waxy, pale to bright yellow and have 8 outer petals and four reddish/orange inner petals. The white central pistel opens well after the flower.

It has a strong floral tuberose-like fragrance and merits planting near a window or where it's scent can waft into the house or at least near enough to be handy to cut branches to bring it inside.

It looks much like the American Witch Hazel plant but the petals are less showy and it appears to belong to a different genus--although the habit, fruit, winter blooming and scent have me wondering if not the same plant if they are at least related?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Man of War

I pulled several copies of the aluminum drypoint plate I made yesterday. I used a pthalo blue etching ink (Akua) and have been trying different wiping techniques/materials.

The prints are getting better but they are still printed pretty badly--too much ink here and there and too little in other places. My best luck was with a stiff tarlatan--that's what they're used for after all-- but I'll try to find someone who can show me how to wipe and if my ink is too stiff/loose. I'm still hoping to make a go with these water-soluble inks as clean up is really easy and there are no solvents to deal with.
I wiped ink on with a piece of matboard/scraped it off and then lightly buffed the plate with a big ball of tarlatan cloth slowly wiping off the ink. Then I went in with a bit of rolled/pointed newsprint to pull out some highlights and lastly wiped lightly with the side of my hand.

The last three I printed over an initial printing of a solid color using a piece of plexiglass plate.
I rolled color onto the plexiglass plate corresponding to where the aluminum plate would go later--lifted out the jellyfish body and some of the tenticles/stingers with a Q-tip and printed that first--one dark, the second ghost was lighter. Then, inking the plate each time, I printed the etching plate on top of the already tinted paper.

The last one is a true monoprint--I painted in my usual badly chosen colors on the plexiplate; blue for sky/blue for water, purple jelly, multicolor tenticles. It's loose and kind of interesting and would have worked if I had chosen colors more carefully; the green in particular was rather ill-advised.

I'll tip in watercolor in one of the poorly printed drypoints and see what that looks like.

P.S. If you get stung by one of these--hot water works best at neutralizing the stinging cells once you peel off the sticky stinging strings as best you can. They really hurt and can scar.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Drypoint Man of War

Itching to do something and I've been working with variations of this sketch for weeks.

The idea is quite simple; a Portugese Man of War--a floating, stinging jellyfish common to the Atlantic in Winter as an exercise in composition and color.
I've been envisioning this in color woodblock but haven't committed yet to how many blocks or colors and figured this would be a quick way to scratch in an idea and play with some color after.

I want a strong flowing diagonal for the drifting tentacles and the float should be a transparent/iridescent pale purple set off by varying shadings of the sky and deep waters.

That's the idea anyway.
This has been scratched into the leftover scrap of aluminum sheeting that I have
6 X 13" in size and I'll try printing in the AM.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Tub Burn, silkscreen, 7.5" x 9", 1984

I've been going through some old portfolios and I found this print--one of my only silkscreens, done in college in 1984. It was my first ever edition--all the prints had to be exactly the same and I printed six.

I gave away most to classmates. It was small and silly enough an image that it was a hit. At least, I always thought it was cute.

This one ended up in a small wooden frame in the bathroom of the loft apartment we would rent out in Florence when we were away. I never got any complaints, but then no one asked where they could get a copy either. We took it out of the house when we moved back to the States.

We'll head back to Italy for the holidays and I'll be pulling out some more old student-era portofolios.

I wonder what else I'll find?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Grapes and Light

Hanukkah 2010 Starts tonight at sundown.

Fall colors.
Grapes and vines.
Light, Blessings and Miracles.

I've had this quirky idea for a while to draw a cordon-trained grapevine as a Menorah (the candelabra that holds the candles for the Festival of Hanukkah)--the Fall colors illuminating the leaves. I never really got around to doing it seriously but sat down yesterday just to try one out as a collagraph print.

All REAL artists will eventually do some nudes, a still life, some abstract thing and,
if they're JEWISH, eventually a stab at something Judaica.

Below is the print just off the press, printed in Black and White on Rives BFK paper. You can see the embossing but the vine isn't visible enough as is so again, I painted in with watercolors and brush.

I had hoped to print up a bunch for cards but it's a lot of work and the cardstock/matboard plate won't print too many before getting squished.
Maybe it will at least last 8 impressions?!?
I'd like to try tomorrow a real monoprint, loosely painting on some colors on the plate before running it through the press.
Will show the results tomorrow.

Happy Hanukkah!

Music and Noise

Music and Noise
collagraph monoprint with watercolor. 7.5" X 10"

I'm still playing around. Procrastinating really. I'm trying to get going on another woodblock print. I have a nice long plank of Red Birch, lovely grain, 6' x 8" that I've cut down into a few 15" lengths and have started sanding and planing them down. Thinking about what to do next.

There are some things I've wanted to try: a reduction print, a bold black and white image, a white-line print and a few nude/figurative pieces I have preliminary sketches for but haven't committed to.

So when I'm this waffly (is that a word? an adjective?) I usually doodle and from the noise and the clutter sometimes comes just more mess and chaos but sometimes, if not order, at least some good ideas.

This started as a kid's exercise on a rainy day. We all cut out some card stock and made collagraph plates using old 5" x 7" mat boards and glue and scissors.
This was my version from the first test printing. Each one of these shapes was cut out of an old file folder using a pair of scissors and glued down onto the matboard and then coated with wood glue to seal it before printing.
It was overwiped, too pale but well-embossed from being run through the press so this one has watercolor pigment painted on.

I think it's a cochlea. The snail like thing in our heads that is involved with hearing and balance. THIS one seems to be spewing out and rejecting all sounds.
Or is it all going in? I can't tell.