31 May 2007

Leonard Baskin's Images of Women

Illustration for A Poem Called The Tunning of Elynour Rummynge
by John Skelton (British poet, 1460-1529)

Sculptor/printmaker Leonard Baskin (1922-2000) was best known for his monumental black-and-white woodcuts and heroic sculptures depicting male figures from biblical and classical narratives. The Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, MA, where Baskin taught for over 20 years, is about to show another side of the artist in an exhibit called "Medea and Her Sisters: Leonard Baskin's Images of Women." The show runs from June 15 to September 9.

28 May 2007

Aline Feldman


In the two years I've been exploring moku hanga I've found that working successfully in this medium requires me to be calm, patient and focused and I just can't find those qualities in myself right now, what with buying a new condo and selling my old home. It's possible that I won't produce any more prints until later this summer after we've moved, although I can hardly bear the thought.

So I'm studying. I'm reading about printmaking and looking at prints. At my local library I found a book called A Graphic Muse: Prints by Contemporary American Women, written in 1987 by T.J. Edelstein and Ruth E. Fine. Although a bit dated, the book is introducing me to some women artists I've not heard of before and a few of them work with wood.

The work of artist Aline Feldman (born 1928) interests me on many levels. A student of previously blogged Werner Drewes, Feldman switched from the western woodcut method (rolling oil-based ink onto blocks) to the Japanese method (brushing on water-based inks) in the 1960s under the tutelage of Unichi Hiratsuka. Later she discovered the "white-line" method developed by the Provincetown printmakers and combined this with moku hanga to develop her own brand of one-block multicolored printmaking.

In addition to being interested in her process, I'm also interested in Feldman's distinctive aerial view landscapes. Unlike my method of working from satellite photos I find on the internet, Feldman actually goes aloft in a four-seated Cessna to find her source materials. I like that idea! Now to find a friend with a pilot's license...

22 May 2007

Third & Elm Press

3&ElmNorway "Norway"

I recently discovered the web site of Third & Elm Press, a print shop based in Newport, Rhode Island, founded in 1965 by Alexander and Ilse Buchert Nesbitt. Using only hand set type, the press prints and publishes limited edition books on an 1897 Golding platen press and original woodcuts on an 1830 Acorn hand press. Since Alexander's death in 1995, Ilse has continued their work. The web site is comprehensive and reveals Ilse's unique method of printing multiple colors from one block of wood.

15 May 2007

Sybil Andrews' Color Linocuts


I recently ran across British/Canadian artist Sybil Andrews (1898 - 1992) who worked in multiplate linocut. While her modernist style doesn't appeal to me, I always find something of interest in viewing multicolor block prints. In Andrews' case, I like the textures she's achieved using western methods and I find the edges of her prints especially interesting. Any guesses about why there's all that ink past the borders of the print?

10 May 2007

400 Square Feet of Studio Space!


My partner and I just found out that our offer has been accepted on a condominium unit in the building above. The building is an old schoolhouse, built in 1928. Included in the unit is 400 square feet of raw studio space! Looks like we'll be selling our current house and moving in July. I'll show some photos of the studio once I have the opportunity to get in there to see it again.

All the real estate bustle has kept me from printing my latest set of blocks, though. Last night I did a quick test on some newsprint because I couldn't stand to wait any longer. Here's what happened:


I like it so far. It resembles how I felt after seeing the Dalai Lama yesterday!

08 May 2007

The Dalai Lama Visits My Town


This isn't about woodblock, but my little city of Northampton, Massachusetts, is all abuzz awaiting the arrival of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. My dog Ty and I just walked the grounds at the Smith College campus where he will speak tomorrow. It looks beautiful with prayer flags everywhere and there was a joyful expectant feeling as many townsfolk milled around looking at all the decorations. I think we all feel very honored to have him here; I know that I do.

This part of Massachusetts, called the Connecticut River Valley, is home to over 100 Tibetan refugees as well as a unique Tibetan Studies in India program for scholarly study of Buddhism by students of our 5 area colleges. Tomorrow morning the Dalai Lama will address an audience of 5,000 Smith and Hampshire college students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the Tibetan association at Smith College. Tickets have long been sold out, but his address will be televised locally. He will also be having a private gathering with over 1,000 members of the Tibetan community on Thursday.

ADDENDUM 22 May 07: Click here for a podcast of the Dalai Lama's address at Smith College

06 May 2007

Just Three Blocks

In my quest for simplicity, I'm going to use just three blocks for this print along with a few stencils. I tried this before, when I did the Melting print, and I was unhappy with how that one turned out. It was too flat and simple. But I think I can make this print have the complexity and depth I'm looking for by pushing the printing process rather than the carving. We'll see.

Here are the blocks:


03 May 2007

A New Process

I love and will continue the print series I started last year based on satellite maps ("Love Songs for a Small Planet"), but the process of making those prints is very long and arduous. I want to develop a different kind of process for myself, one that I can do when time is more limited, one that is more free and loose. I'd also like to develop a way of working that allows reuse of some of my blocks and I'd like to discover printing methods that create a more painterly effect.

In the quest of those elusive goals, I begin with the four heads in the previous post. I'm not exactly sure where this will lead, but that unsureness itself is a sign of progress for me; I'm not a "happy accident" kind of person, but I want to push myself farther in that direction.

Last night I picked up this block and began to draw on it:


I had stumbled across this image a few weeks ago while searching the internet for ancient Indian drawings of the chakras for an editorial assignment:


This design is called hiranyagarbha, translated as the Golden Egg or the Golden Womb. In the Rigveda, Hiranyagarbha, the creator and animating principle of all being, is said to have arisen in the beginning inside a golden egg resplendent as the sun. I imagine this series of human heads to be about the mind and ways of thinking, so I like the idea of the first print being about the birth of thought. I drew The Golden Egg inside the head, drawing directly on the wood:


And then I cut a few stencils to use with the blocks: