Friday, March 1, 2024

Dragons-A Good Start to 2024 (Maybe it's the battery?....)

Year of the Dragon, mokuhanga, 4.5"x6.5"

My car battery dies often enough that I keep a pair of jumper cables behind the driver's seat. So, I've been eyeing those cables and thinking how suitable they were for an etegami for some time but hadn't really figured out a suitable text to go with the drawings I contemplated painting.

But 2024 is the year of the Dragon according to the Chinese Zodiac and while I wasn't planning on making a Lunar New Year's card this year, I knew I was going to try and make it to the big Hokusai exhibit in Seattle in January, and when I started thinking about Hokusai, I couldn't help thinking of his big Sumi self-portraits as a dragon......











And so,  I started drawing jumper cables, but thinking about dragons.

A) This was more calligraphic and suggesting a dragon flying.
But when I showed various family members and acquaintences (and a few strangers) my pages of sketches, "B" was the unanimous choice.  While I don't often yield to family taste (pressure) and I'm still not sure I made the right decision but......


Sunday, October 15, 2023

Poetry and Putti: Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Florence. Part I.


I recently joined a small group of local artisans and artists in a small cooperative with the aim of looking for ways to bring our work out of our studios and into the public eye. This group was then invited to participate in a Florence initiative dedicated to exploring the work and influence of women artists and creatives in Florence from the past-- pairing contemporary artists with these influential historical figures.

Our group selected British poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning who lived with her husband Robert Browning in Florence from 1848 until her death in 1861, writing her epic poem of Florence, Casa Guidi Windows, and her semi-autobiographical, feminist, verse-novel Aurora Leigh during these years in Florence.
She is buried in the English Cemetery on the other side of the city,  and her grave there and the Casa Guidi where she lived and wrote, are pilgramage sites for those who fell in love with her Sonnets from the Portuguese or her remarkable life as an independent writer or who wish to pay homage to one of the most influential poets and early feminists of the 19th Century.

Casa Guidi is not far from where I live, but somehow,  although I've passed it hundreds of times in the 25 years I've lived in Florence,  but somehow, I had never gone inside,  despite often stopping to read the memorial placque on the facade and say, "I really should go visit".  Our project was vague in concept, but was meant to be to create something based on the life or work of the artist we had chosen, in some way related to the Villa and residence where they resided.


So with that idea in mind, to find something to work with would require that I would finally go past the plaque over the door and see the inside.  As it turns out, Casa Guidi is part of the English National Trust, a non-profit that maintains the property, and it is open to visitors M/W/F from 3pm-6pm. 




Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Go Figure: Bad Kitty

Oooooooh! I LOVE this.....Is it for sale?

"BAD" Kitty   

I was curious about the traditional way of printing white-line prints, using a wooden spoon rather than a baren and printing on dry paper, tacked along one edge to the board. 

So during a short wait between other commitments, I hastily cut a cat doodle I had done earlier onto a small 4 x 7" block of a poor-quality, scrap plywood. 

It's a funny process: flip up the paper, paint a small area of the block (the lines have been excised away) and fold the paper down and burnish it with a wooden spoon. Each area USUALLY needs to be printed at least twice and the ultimate effect is a little like a coloring book, with the drawing in white.

Being hastily done, everything went as you'd expect. The cheap plywood's grain would suck the paint across the borders, the paper was thick and hard to print on, and my ink drawing bled a bit into the paper during printing. 

BUT,  since I didn't really care how it came out,  I worked fast and loosely with the colors, ignoring the smudges and pale areas. 

The First visitor to my studio while I was working made a beeline to my workstation.
"Oooooh! I love this, Is it for Sale?" and I replied, "Um, well No, it's not finished yet, and its really just an exersize to see if I like this method......", I replied replied rather clumsily..

The Second visitor to my studio (and I rarely get visitors). ALSO immediately asked if the little ugly print was for sale? or could they buy the block!!!

 My son stopped by with some friends from the UK....."I LOVE this, can I have it!?!"

???? Is it a cat person thing?!?!

 Here's the more carefully printed version. This one is a little too dark in the brown areas (which i do like better in the first version). 

"Good" Kitty


 I THINK I'll try to redraw and recut this and start again.   I'm fond of Siamese cats, I've always wanted to do a print of one, and I guess there's a niche to fill.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Not on Speaking Terms-Amaryllis


Not on Speaking Terms, White-line Woodblock print, 8 1/4" x 11 3/4"

I buy an Amaryllis bulb/plant almost every year. I love how dramatic they are, the rising bud is just interesting enough without being threatening or too obscene and I like the fact that the budding and bloom last quite a long time.
This particular plant was one of the few that survived from last year to bloom again. I didn't give it the attention it deserved, so it wasn't as vigorous or as energetic as the first year, and it made only 2 buds, instead of the usual 3-4.
And with just two blooms--Siamese-twins joined at the shoulders--they must have had quarrelled, as they grew with their flowers facing in opposite directions. And they kept this haughty posture, neither really accepting nor acknowledging the other's face or presence.
Despite being nearer and more alike than perhaps they'd have liked to admit, and despite sharing the single stem and bulb, they budded, bloomed, and then withered away next to each other, but alone. 
Who knows what they were mad about, maybe even they don't remember.

This fall, I'll pot them again with some new soil and a bigger pot and the hope that next year they will not simply flower, but wake with enough vigor to shed their grudges and ready to grow.


Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Fast Enough-Year of the (water) rabbit


Fast Enought, 2023, 7" X 8"  E.V.-edition size is 60 on sized Japanese machine-made washi.                 

Are you fast enough?

I wasn't planning on making a Chinese zodiac card this year.

But I started drawing rabbits, and hares, and more rabbits, until I filled a few pages of sketchbooks with running, jumping, grazing and flying "Thumpers".  I had wanted to create a busy background full of jerky marks of grass or reeds whizzing by-but the rabbits couldn't decide if they wanted to be white rabbits on a dark ground, or brown rabbits on a green field- and each time I tried to go one way, the rabbits would run back in the other direction. So my white rabbits kept getting beige fur and black ear and tail highlights, and the brown rabbit was never really dark or real enough.  

But then I remembered it was the year of the WATER rabbit.  And that sort of made the background obvious.  

When almost every other animal you meet wants to eat or hurt you,  it's no surprise that running away is the most natural response to almost any stimulus.   But the hares of our fields first do their best not to get noticed.  They blend in to the tall grass and branches, and hunker down, immobile, and are almost impossible to see.  But if you get too close, or startle them with a brusque movement or noise, they will explode from almost underfoot, and rocket away, zig-zagging across the field and will cross a long distance before they will glance back to make sure they're not being followed.  I will never walk on water, but trying not to be noticed, or running away at the first sign from real or imagined conflict, are habits I recognize.

The format was driven by my participation in the BarenForums latest exchange (91).  The paper size is 7" X 8" and 20 copies went to that print exchange. 


The streaking at the top, is from a little too much size-the glue and alum that I added to the paper.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

"Fixing" things? Some of My Favorite Shapes....


 I did this little 4" x 6" pencil sketch on a long flight back from Japan three years ago.  I often fill a sketchbook quickly, filling a page with shapes or doodles, and letting the visual forms trigger ideas or lead to the next drawing.

I usually draw a rectangle, the imaginary "boundary" of my image and fill it with a couple of lines or shapes. This one was a simple idea of basic shapes and primary colors, so I drew a rough square, a simple triangle, and-cramped as I was on the tray table- a quasi- circle....I added a caption, "Some of my favorite Shapes, Hanging out together" and thus it became another etegami--It was too awkward to color it in on the plane, so I turned the page and filled the sketchbook with many other similar drawings. 

 I've gone back often to that notebook and always thought about turning this into a very simple print.  I pulled out a few blocks, some tracing paper, and started to figure out how to interpret this.   One option would be to simply copy it exactly-there are ways to do that and I could reproduce almost exactly my original drawing.  BUT since I have to manually get it onto the wood, there is also an opportunity to adjust or fix the original drawing--maybe moving the text if it looks cramped or awkward, or in this case, maybe tweaking some of those OBVIOUS exaggerations I made in the original drawing (the square is actually a rhomboid, and that circle is NOT a circle)....and I will confess I did get out a compass, and adjust the circle to bring it closer to a geometric shape, straighten out the sides of the square, and tweak the triangle a little bit......

 But, that then makes other things look odd, and I realize that maybe it wasn't a great a rapid gesture drawing of imagined shapes, it has a quirkiness and spontaneity of something done quickly, just to get an idea on paper, that I really like, and that is very much how I usually do things.  Instead, once it gets corrected, it becomes more of a formal exercise of the relationship of geometric shapes and the negative space surrounding them (things explored very well by LOTS of great artists in the last 100 years)...and now suddenlty the hand-scribbled text also looks awkard, and may have to be redrawn or omitted...?

As I drew various corrected shapes, and played with the text, adding and moving letters to fill the empty spaces,  I tried to see if I could find a happy place between the two approaches. But once I realized that my vacillation was killing any hope of working--I just picked one of my attempts: one closer to a "real" circle and "real" square than the original.  (Made easier by using a collage....).

I'm going to go with this one.

But I still haven't decided whether I'll be carving text, or leaving it out.



Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Inside and outside the Box (Necker Cube)


 I quickly drew this simple cube/3-D illusion (see "Necker cube" if you're curious) as a beginners' exercise for one of my mokuhanga classes from last year. All of the participants carved a keyblock line block of the cube and another of one of the face blocks so they could learn basic and proper carving techniques for lines and solid shapes prior to moving on to their own projects.

I kept their blocks and added a few more to use as demo blocks to show various printing techniques as the class progressed.  I found I liked the roughness of their carving, especially when mixing and superimposing the various duplicates on top of each other.  So after I finished with this group, I printed a few variants on leftover proofing papers.

 Now after a long hiatus myself from carving and printing, I thought I'd pull these out again.
I will be testing my new barens (the Hon-barens I made during the pandemic lockdowns) as well as some odds and ends of poorly labeled paper to warm up again to printing.

It's a bit like doodling with blocks and paper and I'm building each of these multiples by grabbing blocks and trying to add layers of color to pull forward and push back some of the planes.

Most of these will likely end up in the recycle bin but I might even end up with a couple of one-of-a-kind prints worth keeping. Most of the photos are from my studio, with poor fluorescent lighting and my phone campera lens. Their any LOTS of grays, and they don't photograph well.


This one with the idea of all of the shadows draining from a tipped over box intrigues me enough to try again with better paper and more pigment layers to build some depth and shadow.