Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June Century

Courtesy of Expresso Beans
Louis Rhead, Literary Poster for the Century Magazine,
June 1896
, stone color lithograph.

I love this print and it's one of the few pieces of original art that I own. It's a splendid example of "American" Art Nouveau printed during the heydey of color stone lithography. (Rhead is actually English and part of the distinguished family of artists and potters living on both sides of the Atlantic) He moved to the US at the end of the 19th Century and was among a handful of very influential and successful artists working in this style during it's rather brief popularity in this country.
The curving, thorny rose brambles contrast with the flowing lines of the hair and clothes and it is printed in just a few colors--orange,teal, purple,red, yellow and black but achieves a richness and complexity well beyond that number.
A better image can be seen here:

This marks my 100th post.

I don't know that that actually means very much as I don't think I picked up any readers until #75 or so but still it seems like a little milestone.

It does serve as a moment to pause and see what I've done so far and to begin to think about what I want to do next.
Lacrime di Rospo started out hoping to be a farming blog stemming from my small organic farming venture--that never really took off--before we left Italy to move to Santa Cruz.

We were "Toad Organics" or Rospobio and I was trying to lay the groundwork for a small CSA (community supported agriculture project) in Florence.

But we moved to the USA and the farm sort of got abandoned. I went back to work as a physician to pay the bills and drowned my sorrow not with whiskey and beer but with rice paste and water-based colors.

I took a 5 day course in Moku Hanga at the local community college and started making prints again for the first time in many years.

So here I am. It's about 5 years later.
I have about 23 woodblock prints that I've completed.
I still consider myself a novice, if not a beginner. My carving skills are improving but the printing is still woefully lacking in control, skill, and just simple experience. Even if I learn something from every print, I still feel very much like a
"hobby" printer.
I'd like to take another step forward. Each print has been a kind of home-study course, with some kind of goal or skill I hoped to explore or improve on.
"Lydia" was about lyrical, calligraphic lines, My little series of Blu vases was about overlapping pale transparent colors; "Domino" about trying to get a dense black by overlapping primary colors; etc.
My recent trip to Japan to attend a conference on International artists working in Moku Hanga was a great opportunity to look at work by some wonderful artists from all over the world and to get both ideas and energy to push forward to try to improve the quality of my work.

SO here's a list of some things I hope to do this year:

A white line print--probably a floral still life or fairly explicit nude.
A landscape--I have almost no prints with a strong horizontal format.
A still life or interior scene.
A larger print than I'm used to.
Something Dark and rich and splotchy.
And I'd like to work again on achieving nice rich dark colors as well as wispy, washes and delicate colors.
And I'd like to work on "quality control"--cleaner edges and less smudges where they do matter while still allowing some spontaneity with looser printing when that's important.

I'll have some time.

We're moving back to Italy in the Fall. B needs to go back to work full-time in Italy and we'd like the kids to have another year in Italian public schools. So it looks like we'll be back in Florence for the school year. Since I can't work over there as an MD, I'll be able to spend a fair amount carving and printing.

Hope to get something started soon though.
I won't leave before September, and that's plenty of time before that to try something new.


  1. Dear Andrew.

    What an amazing life you have. Celebrate!

    I really liked the list of things you hope to do this year and wish you the best in that endeavor. I hope you don't mind but I made a copy of that list and will try to do some of those things as well. Shall we e-meet at the end of the full year and see how we've done?

  2. It's a decent list and I do hope to successfully knock off a few before December.

    The real trade off is between the desire to create a "body of work"; a series of cohesive works that share thematically or visually some coherent idea or expressive mode with the desire to sort of just keep messing around; playing with ideas and techniques, achieving a variety of maybe mismatched works in the name of experimentation.

    It's not purely academic. There were several "scouts" for future Moku Hanga Shows in Europe and the US at the Kyoto Conference and they were rather uniformly uninterested in my work.
    It was a bit depressing but I suppose, even If I had hoped otherwise, not surprising.
    Much of the work I brought is interesting in the context of where I get my ideas and what the story is behind the print.
    The prints, by themselves, without the tale are a bit odd and quirky and modest.

  3. Florence, back in Florence. Lucky you! Is the best in world Gelateria still there? Maybe after completing your list you'll find a theme, style that will hold for creating a body of work. What are you doing with your house here?

  4. There are still a few true, good gelaterie in Florence but they're harder and harder to find.
    Most of the "produzione propria" ("homemade") ice creams use premade industrial bases from the food service industry and then mix in flavored powders or fruit to make each flavor--there's a milk base, a sorbet base with tons of additives and garbage added.
    The true artisanal makers--using milk, cream, egg, fresh fruit, etc are very rare.
    Same is true with bread and Pizza.
    (I like "Il Caraibe" near the Duomo).
    I think we have a renter for the house.
    I will be looking for someone to sublet my little art studio (it will have the blue press in it.) 650 Ft2 over by the New Leaf Mkt on Fair.

  5. Re: body of work - you sell yourself short, my friend. I went back through your posted work and you have a cohesive style that, together, is very impressive and intriguing. The stories behind the work are best shared person to person anyway. As I was recently told, you don't know who is watching you and your work. They lurk, sometimes for years, as we plod ahead, doing what we love but feeling unappreciated. Then they pounce! So, wait for it. And keep doing what you are doing.

    Your "to do" list is a fantastic idea and I can't wait to see what you achieve! Can't wait to see what inspires you in Florence either! Maybe some bread, pizza and ice cream genie's to go with the coffee?