09 September 2016

"Traces" Portfolio for the E/AB Fair

Print portfolios are a tradition in printmaking, I've learned. A portfolio is a group of prints, usually united by a theme or technique, presented in a case of some kind. A portfolio can be created by a single artist, or more often by a group of artists. Sometimes the portfolio is an exchange, where each participating artist receives a complete portfolio, and sometimes the portfolio is designated for sale. For me, there are pros and cons to participating in portfolios (we can get into that in the comments if you all want to), but I was invited to participate, along with 19 other artists from Zea Mays Printmaking (ZMP) studio, in a portfolio that will be showcased in NY in November 2016 at the Editions/Artists Book Fair and I jumped at the opportunity.

The portfolio is called Traces, named after a poem by ZMP studio member Annie Rogers which acts as the prompt and unifying theme. It's a strong poem with a lot of visual word-images that could be used as inspiration, and it contains themes of memory, language, loss, and childhood. As I wrote in my last post, my mind and heart were fixated on the loss of my dog Ty and when I read the poem I became also fixated on the mention of a paint by numbers kit.

Vintage paint by number paintings are an iconic mid-century art form — low-brow and democratic, much like many types of printmaking. Paint by numbers is also a pretty perfect description of the traditional Japanese process of making a woodblock print. In this method, most of the major decisions about the image are made in the sketch phase. The carving and printing are executions of the sketch and literally involve carving areas for each color based on a drawing and then laying those colors down in the printing. Click this link to see an example of how the colors build during the making of a print, much like filling in a coloring book, and much like painting by numbers.

So I started looking at vintage paint by number kits.

Deer are a very popular motif in paint by numbers.

Rivers are also popular, and Ty loved his rivers!

I photoshopped a picture of Ty onto a river-themed paint by number just for fun.

There's quite a bit of Asian-themed imagery in paint by numbers, too. That could be cool, to reference the Japanese roots of my chosen art form.

Ha ha ha, here's Ty in Japan.

Or why not just do a straightforward paint-by-number style dog portrait like one of these?

Snow scenes are also popular paint by number themes. The top image here is a Kiyoshi Saito woodblock print (I love Saito). I was surprised to see how much the Saito looks like paint by number. A snow scene would also work with the poem "Traces," which talks about snow and a blizzard.

This is one of my favorite Saito images, "Winter in Aizu." The solitary figure is so lonely and haunting. Maybe I could do a Saito-style winter scene of tiny me and Ty walking.

The winter scene is where I landed and I spent a long time pondering what the scene might look like. In the next post I'll tell you about a subsequent shift in my thinking.


Melody Knight Leary said...

Annie this post conjured up fond childhood memories of paint by number kits, so much so that I could almost smell the distinctive scent of the little tubs of paint. Being a create kid right from the start, many gifts were art related and I remember getting my first paint by number set when I was 10. Loved it!

I like the idea of a snow scene with Ty. His paw prints in the snow would work nicely with the theme. Can't wait to see what you come up with.

Kalilama said...

I remember doing those paintings, too, at 10 or so, and the smell of the paint, and wishing sometimes they had chosen different colors. Ever the rebel. :-) This is fascinating, Annie, thanks.

Annie B said...

God, I loved them too. When I was 10 or so I got a pair of paint by number colonial portrait kits that were a huge hit. So much nostalgia in this.

Celia Hart said...

You've all written my comment for me! I too had paint by number kits for Christmas / Birthday presents, sometimes I used the paints to do my own paintings as colouring in was a bit boring. Your post brought back the memory so vividly - the colours, texture and smell of the paint and the picture divided into those curvy shapes.

Looking forward to the next post Annie

Coreopsis said...

I never did have any of those kits, or coloring books for that matter, but always lots and lots of paper and crayons and pencils and pens and paint. But I LOVE those Saito images, and can see the resemblance. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on your process....

Annie B said...

Thanks for reading, Coreopsis.