Sunday, February 28, 2021

Inclined Plane: (What will it take to move me?).


The Inclined plane is one of the 6 simple machines, used since ancient times to aid in construction or move masses of stone, or materials up or down.  By increasing the distance traveled, the amount of force needed is decreased when compared to hauling the same weight straight up or down. Blocks of stone were hauled up long ramps to build the pyramids and the blocks of Italian marble were slid from the quarries, miles to the sea using sloped ramps and rolling logs and teams of oxen to ship by boat to Rome and the rest of the world. The forces acting are gravity, pulling downwards, inertia, a body's resistence to movement based on it's mass, and friction, the resistence to sliding based on the nature of the materials and their surfaces. Increasing the slope, decreasing the coefficient of friction (by oiling or wetting the surface), or applying an outward force (pushing or pulling) will all aid in moving any object up or down the ramp. 

But this was intended as a metaphor and not a physics problem.  I've been stuck for a while, not with creative block, I have a book of ideas of prints and images I want to explore, but with something else.  I can't seem to get anything done.  I've a desk and studio full of unfinished work and many more never started.  And the BIG things, changes I need to make in my life and for my career, sit in a stack, getting taller as it also gets buried, by all the things that I let pile up and take precedence over the important, or distract me, long enough, so it's too late most every day to even think about tackling my problems.

So, it's been a long time since I really worked on a new woodblock print. The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, quarantines and lockdowns and the political upheaval in the USA and Italy have had me fairly paralyzed, glued to the computer trying to figure out what's happening next or wondering about the future.  So when the Barenforum called for participants in their next print exchange,  in a simple format and without a theme,  I decided to take the hint, and sign up, hoping that the deadline would help push me to start working again. 

This was meant to be a simple image of a dark block, sitting on a steep slope at the borderline of what would visually feel like it might want to move, or slip, on it's own, or with a little help. One has to imagine the forces preventing any movement--inertia, maybe laziness, fear of failure or habits of self-sabatoge, the frictions of daily life: my duties as parent or husband, taxes, a mortgage, family conflicts very near and far away, ageing parents and troubled children, the quiet and odd newness of an ageing body and the subtle return of hints of illnesses known but never really conquered or new, disquieting symptoms that whisper menace with all the things that any little thing might portend. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                What to do?

 I can increase the slope. Sooner or later, I'll start to slip and then accelerate downhill.  I can try to smooth the rough parts on the path, make the rough and irregular road, smooth and slippery. Or I can wait for some inevitable, eventual, external force--maybe positive: such as an invition to participate in a print exchange or residency, or a commission, or an exciting idea that just begs to be worked on, or negative one--a major life event or disruption--that forces me finally to change or startles me into flight.  But either way, like it or not, I have the sense that once it comes, and I start to slip and accelerate downhill,  it may not be possible to control how fast or far I go, or stop if I want to.

"Inclined Plane" "What does it take to move me?"  8" x 10" Mokuhanga watercolor woodblock with handwritten text. Edition Vari√©, 30 copies on off white or beige Japanese kozo paper.  9 color impressions from six plywood blocks with Sumi ink, watercolor pigments and rice paste. 


An early sketch




  1. I love the simplicity of this but yet feel the movement - almost violent movement. It seems like that movement is unstoppable, it is going to take me without my consent. Should I hop on top and ride it out? Yeehaw or Yikes?

  2. It doesn't feel to me like a ride in an amusement park, but more like waiting for a big wave, something bigger than me that I will ride on the surface to the edge of land, or that will crash over me tossing and tumbling to be spit out onto the beach.