Posts Tagged ‘Process’

Canning jar lid monotypes

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

A friend of mine came over a couple of weeks ago to experiment with watercolor monotypes. I have usually used frosted Mylar such as Duralar as a plate for watercolor monotypes, but this time I decided to try a different plate: a canning jar lid.

First, I coated the lids with dishsoap as a release agent.


After the soap dried, I painted with watercolor.


After the paint was dry, I printed on damp paper to transfer the image.


The paper in the lower left was a drawing paper my friend brought; we think it may have been canson bright edition. It worked well but some of the detail of the print was lost in the texture of the paper. The other paper is from a roll of sumi art paper by Yasutomo, it was smooth and the detail transferred well but it was a little fragile. The top print tore as I was pressing it. I used a metal spoon for pressing and a piece of kitchen parchment to help the spoon glide over the damp paper.

Back to making work, back to blog

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

It has been 4 months since my baby was born. I’ve been busy balancing teaching with taking care of my son. Recently, I’ve been adding in some printmaking. I’m returning to my goal of updating this blog weekly to keep me making artwork and doing other things that keep the creative process moving.

In June I started carving a woodblock print based on pictures of my son’s placenta. I am calling it “His Roots.” I’ve recently been working on printing it and will post pictures of that soon. Here is a picture of the initial carving in progress:

Self as rabbit

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

I don’t have any new images to show progress on my apple tree print. The next image I post will probably be when I’ve actually picked out a piece of wood and transferred my drawing. But I’ve still been thinking about it. Jen and Tom’s comments helped me to think about some connected issues. Tom’s comment, “It is funny that you are casting the animals and people in these roles when people are destroying so many habitats,” made me think that maybe what I see as the rabbit’s short-term and self-focused thinking could be a metaphor for what people so often do.

The rabbit (or rabbits) didn’t think, “If I just eat from the branches of the tree then it can live to feed me and others for many more years.” It ate the bark on the trunk that it could reach, and was so hungry it ate it down to the dead wood completely in a circle all around the tree, so that there would be no way for the tree’s roots and branches to exchange water and nutrients this spring. It killed the tree, the bees’ hopes for spring flowers, our hopes for summer apples, and its own or other rabbits’ chances at nibbling some more yummy bark next winter. How many times do we as humans do the same thing, taking something for our own immediate need and convenience, forgetting that we share the same resources with many other people and creatures and with our own future selves and children? Many times we could choose differently, and meet our needs in a way that leaves the “apple tree” intact enough to grow. But it is true that simply by taking up space we do limit the space for others.

Because I have a lot on my mind and taking up time right now, I’ve decided that the simplest presentation of the apple tree, derived from my original sketch, will be my print. I think the rabbit will only be present as bite marks and scat.

Stations of the Cross with imagery from 2nd-3rd graders

Monday, March 29th, 2010

This week, I am interrupting my work on the apple tree print to make a piece for House of Mercy‘s Stations of the Cross service this Friday.

This year, each of the 14 stations will be a body part. I’m doing Station VII Jesus Falls a Second Time, the right calf and foot, and Station IX Jesus Falls a Third Time, the right thigh and knee. For me, the Jesus Falls stations are about incarnation, humility, a God who gets dirty. And those who know my work know I am fascinated by dirt, both on and under the ground.

In 2008 I made this sculptural book called Glimpses Underground. It was inspired by turning over a rock and discovering a window to an underground world full of ant tunnels, worm castings, roots and invertebrates. The cover and container for the book is made of paper cast over a rock. The pages are shaped to match the contours of the rock so that they fit within it, and are bound together by a single cord. Each page has a different woodcut-printed glimpse of something one might find underground or under a rock.

I made Glimpses Underground intending to make a large edition of books, but I decided I didn’t need more than 2 or 3 finished books, so I have a lot of leftover cast rocks and shaped pages, some printed and some not. For this year’s stations of the cross, I thought I would recycle some of those pages and the structural idea from the book. I will trim the pages to make them the contours of the foot and leg, and bind them with a cord running through them. I will use some of the ones that are printed, to bring the world of the dirt into the meditation on Jesus’ falls.

I will also use some of the blank pages, painted with walnut dye by 2nd and 3rd graders in Sunday School yesterday. I told them before they started painting that I would use them in my piece for the Stations of the Cross service. We talked about and painted imagery from four stories for Holy Week: Palm Sunday’s triumphal procession with palm leaves, the Last Supper’s bread and wine, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection.


Loving my enemies, including animal pests

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Debbie Blue made this comment on the theological aspect of my efforts to visualize the relationship between me, the rabbits, and the apple tree: “I mean if we are going to try to love our enemies (or try to understand them as something other than enemies), it seems like we will need to spend some time in that process. And I sure think that should include animals and plants and not just humans.”

Twins With Beasts, 8x6", woodcut, 2006.

I have been thinking about this idea for a while. This is a print I made in 2006. I used the woodblock of this nude figure to explore relationships between humans and animals and thinking about that through mythic and spiritual terms. The figure on the right I call “Saint Annelida” based on the phylum that includes earthworms and other segmented worms. She developed out of my other work with knitted worms, and here wears them as a garment just as a monastic person might wear a hair shirt for penitence and humility. I usually don’t think of earthworms as pests or enemies, but as an important link with cycles of life and death and the fertility of the earth. However, some kinds of earthworms are an invasive species here in MN, so in that way they are a part of human damage to our environment, so an extension of our enmity with nature.

The figure on the left I think of as a female John the Baptist figure, a prophet of judgment and repentance. John the Baptist ate locusts in the wilderness. Locusts are one of the plagues in the Exodus story. When I read about the origin of locusts, I was surprised to find out that they are a kind of ordinarily solitary desert grasshopper. When desert rains produce concentrated pockets of vegetation, the grasshoppers cluster together, and the stimulation of their bodies touching triggers the change into swarming locusts, which then migrate and plague farmlands. I find it interesting that in some prophetic literature, rains in the desert are considered a sign of God’s blessing and renewal, while a plague of locusts is considered a sign of God’s judgment. What does this mean, then, that desert rains produce locust swarms? How is our theology affected by our perception of nature as for or against us?

I am still wrestling with visualizing some aspect of this in my rabbit and apple tree print, and I haven’t decided whether a depiction of a rabbit eating the tree is simplest and best, or whether I should try and show more of what is going on inside the layers of the tree and rabbit, or to show more of the past and future of the tree. I would appreciate any suggestions based on the sketches in my last post.

I took a break from working on that composition to sketch some squirrels near a friend’s house. They are mostly quick gesture drawings, trying to capture fleeting poses from very active creatures. My friend wants to grow a vegetable garden this year, but is concerned about losing everything to the squirrels. Another pest to struggle against?

One idea I have, maybe instead of the apple tree rabbit print, is to simply carve some pest portraits of rabbits and squirrels and print them along with some blocks I have already carved, such as one of baby mice and the one of the locust featured in the print above. Maybe gathering several animal pests together would create more of a conversation about what these creatures mean to us, as competitors with our food supply and as organisms who share our urban and agrarian ecosystems. This might also be a good idea for a book, with one pest per page. But I need to do a larger print first, as I have committed to a print exchange of a certain size. (And I have approximately 6 weeks to finish it before the baby is due! I need to decide quickly and get to work!) Can you picture this? Would this be more meaningful than the apple tree and rabbit alone? Are there other pests you would include?

Rabbit food sketches

Friday, March 12th, 2010

We’ve cut down the girdled apple tree, the snow is melting and exposing other food choices for the rabbits, and now I have started sketching ideas for a print.

First sketch: I started with a more direct narrative, showing a rabbit eating the bark and pooping. I never saw this happen. I see rabbits, I see rabbit turds and footprints, and I see the damaged plants they’ve eaten, but I never see them eat. This probably happens at night. I wonder if it should be a night scene dominated by deep blue snow shadows and yellow street-lamp light.

The second sketch is trying to show a little more of the unseen, how the connection between the roots and branches is broken when the vascular tissue of the inner bark is eaten, and also how the rabbit scat I see in the yard are mostly made up of bark from meals like this one. I was thinking about making a circular kind of composition, showing the scat returning to the soil near the roots. The rabbit is part of the arc of material, more of an idea than a documentation of an actual rabbit eating. I’m still wondering if and how I should include the concept of my expectation of spring flowers and summer fruit cut short by this winter hunger. Here’s one thought, maybe a circular composition could occur inside an apple or apple blossom.

The third sketch takes another view, showing the green living tissue in cross sections of the tree, and showing the rabbit digesting and using the energy and nutrients from this green life.

So, does anyone have any thoughts about these different ways of showing this relationship? What do these images communicate to you? What might make them stronger visually, or more nuanced conceptually?

Walnut dye for woodcut printing and nesting doll print

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Based on a question from a student about printing with natural dyes, I did a test of printing with walnut dye. The block is a test block I use to demonstrate carving in my classes.

The top image is walnut dye printed without paste, giving the same blotchy effect as printing with any waterbased pigment and no paste. The bottom image is printed with paste.

This test was a good transition from teaching to thinking about my own work. I recently finished a small (2×3″) block carved with images of nesting dolls as a meditation on my connections with my family, the generations before and after me and within me.

The prints on the top are test prints on a recycled white sketchbook paper. The bottom prints are on a gray washi paper leftover from printing “Cracked and Inhabited”

For contrast and clarity of the image, I think the pink works better. However, I decided to print more of the yellow with the green gradation, which gives a sense of something growing from within, like a germinating seed.

Japanese Woodblock workshop at MCBA

Friday, February 19th, 2010

This is an invigorating week for teaching for me. In addition to my Japanese Woodblock workshop at MCBA, I also did a one-night woodblock workshop at MCAD last night, and am looking forward to Rag Paper at MCBA tomorrow.

The participants in the MCBA workshop are busily working on their multiple color prints. Here are some images of their work in progress:

Carving a block.

Inking a block.

A test print.

A test print with block.

Another test print with block.

Process, inspiration, and connections

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Why blog?

  • To share and stimulate my artistic process
  • To post and discuss images of inspiration, materials, sketches, carved blocks, test prints, and finished work
  • To make connections: between art and life and between making art and teaching art.
  • To announce upcoming exhibitions and classes.
Knitting Her Fear

Knitting Her Fear, 2005, 20x15”, water-based woodcut

This print I made several years ago continues to evoke aspects of my inspiration and process. The red wriggler worms I used for composting were my collaborators in recycling waste, and my guides as I thought about creativity and natural cycles.

As she patiently charms the worms into a knitted garment, this character embodies a willingness to make her art and her life dependent on the repetitive tending of the lowliest organisms. She quietly delights in the surprise and disgust of those who smile or grimace at the idea of knitting slimy worms.