There is a new arrival in my art studio.It is a Martech etching press that came all the way from Long Island this morning. The lovely owner, Leonora Wolfeld, had to part with this press because she was relocating, and it was fate that allowed me to purchase it from her. Perry Tymeson, the printing press guru of the East Coast, delivered this press to me, and with the help of a few others, we carried it piece by piece up to my second floor studio in the Beaver Mill in North Adams, Massachusetts.
This dream was realized because of a generous grant from the Martha Boschen Porter Fund, an affiliate of the Berkshire Taconic Foundation.
Sometimes it takes years, or even a lifetime, but dreams can come true. In my world, today was that day.
Charcoal seems to be the medium of choice for my drawing students this year. Working in both additive and subtractive methods, they combine chalk, willow charcoal and white nupastel to achieve some remarkable techniques on Steel Gray Canson Ingres paper.
Metal object by Aaron Barrett Self-portrait by Tiffany Dunican
Drawing from plaster cast by Stephanie Geery, former student
Interpretive landscape by former student
While the Japanese Barberry is stunning in its color and the sumptuous shape of its berries, it pricks us, impeding our journey. Yet we do not give up. Ultimately we will find the pathway that leads us to one another and to ourselves.
This edition of twenty-two was printed on a Vandercook Universal III at PRESS in North Adams, MA, using a combination of multiple block and reduction block techniques with linoleum on Rives BFK.
This print is part of an invitational exchange entitled Double Bubble: 40 mile radius x 2. Eighteen printmakers residing within a 40 mile radius from Troy, New York, or a 40 mile radius from Bennington, Vermont were invited to make prints for this exchange. The resulting portfolio of prints will be exhibited at the Southern Graphics Council International Printmaking Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2015.
Often in drawing, one uses a graphite pencil or stick of charcoal to make an image on the page. This drawing session was different. I asked my students to spread charcoal across the entire surface of their paper, and use an eraser as their only tool. Observing simple white objects set on the table in front of them, the students carved highlights out of the dark space, bringing the three dimensional image to life on their paper. As I demonstrated, one student remarked that it was almost like watching me sculpt the object rather than draw it.
This brings me to an acquaintance I made a few years ago, whose name is Matthew Woodward. He is a Chicago-based artist, but we met at a residency, and I had the chance to walk into his studio during open studio hours. Graphite dust covered the walls and floors, where he had been working on a massive reductive drawing that reached from floor to ceiling. I happened to be alone in the room, and I was awestruck. While I do not remember the exact title of the piece he was working on, it was based on architectural details found on the streets of Chicago, which were then translated in his work. This is an example of what was happening in his studio.
Later in the evening, Matthew and I shared a conversation in my studio. I had also been working in reductive imagery, but in printmaking, and on a much smaller scale. We shared a conversation about our love of light on forms, and the beauty of pulling an image out from the darkness. There was an overlap in our stories, our experience of loss, and the need to make work about it. This is what was happening in my studio.
The following excerpt is taken from an interview by Damien James, titled “More than a Whisper in the Ear: An Interview with Matt Woodward and Linda Warren” in 2011.
In describing his process, Matt says,”I begin sanding into the surface. Actually, what I do is not so much sanding into the surface as it is beating the hell out of the surface. I’ll drag whatever I can find across it and throw things at it and generally get into a fight with it until it starts to let go of its face a little and dissolve out. I do this is because of the graphite; the paper is going to record just about everything I do to it, and when I get around to laying the graphite powder down it’s going to sneak into all of these grooves and tears and make what it is I have done to it into a more visible mark. It’s also going to make itself difficult to get out again. And, of course, it’s then that I go about trying to get it out again. I start scraping and sanding and erasing or getting it wet and pulling it out however I can. Sometimes I’ll add more paper to the surface, over the graphite and get back into it and repeat the process.”
Woodward continues, “I’ve taken these objects, these images and I have put them in the dark, in the graphite bed that I have made for them. And, if you’ll humor my analogy a moment, after this I then begin to pull them back out. I do that by applying light to the object, by erasing the graphite out of the surface. It’s really your traditional reductive drawing, and in this way, I think, reductive drawing has more in common with a sculptural idiom, an architectural idiom than you might expect. I am letting the light of the image, which is the light of the paper – the paper that is buried beneath the graphite – signify the things presence by pulling and carving it out of the surface. It’s very much like a relief.”
Do you remember ever being so inspired by something that it took your breath away?
You can see more of these images at mattwoodward.com.
I spent the last three days studying the Japanese tradition of Moku Hanga printmaking. Moku hanga is the Japanese term for woodblock print (moku means wood and hanga means print). Rice paste and water-based pigments are the inking materials specific to the moku hanga process. In Moku Hanga, one applies colors to the woodblock with brushes, and uses a “kento” registration system for printing a paper multiple times. The actual print is made using a handheld “baren” as a burnisher. Traditionally, separate woodblocks are carved and printed for each color.
Woodblock printing was brought to Japan in the 8th century by Buddhists from China and was first used to reproduce religious texts. Woodblock printing became the primary form of commercial printing in Japan. This print by Hokusai was made between 1826-1833.
I love this method because:
a. it is non-toxic. Using water-based pigment means it is safe for use around children.
b. everything can be done by hand. There is no need for a printmaking press of which I have no room for and no money to buy one.
c. one can start and stop the process with ease. This means mom can be available when desperately needed elsewhere in the house.
Inspired by the moku hanga prints made by my friend Katie Baldwin, I wanted to give it a try and decided to study with Annie Bissett, a regional moku hanga printmaker. I began with a watercolor sketch of some winter berries from our yard. Then began carving multiple blocks for various colors.
Here I am applying pigment to the carved block. From the top right you will see rice paste, pigment, and baren. The woodblock is held tight in a registration board to ensure proper placement of paper over the carved block.
If you are interested in taking a cool workshop like this, contact Zea Mays Printmaking.
Every morning, even on the coldest days, I take our dog Toby for a walk. It is a ritual for the two of us. Because of where we go, Toby is able to run, unfettered by a leash, to his heart’s content. But I walk. And lately I’ve been noticing our footprints in the snow.
This particular morning, I decided to change it up and make some winter art. Toby watched curiously as I walked in curves and spirals, breaking our long tradition of habitually straight lines. I secretly hoped someone else would visit this spot later in the day to discover the patterns we had made.
This brings me to Andy Goldsworthy, a British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist who produces site-specific sculptures in natural settings. With gloveless hands, Goldsworthy fuses together icicle chunks with warm water, holding them in place while they freeze. He packs and molds snow for hours on end. Goldsworthy uses only his bare hands, teeth, and found tools to prepare and arrange the materials he finds in nature. Photography is the only means for making these works permanent. Because snow melts, ice breaks, and seasons change.