Monday, May 19, 2014

Plein Air Printmaking!

This past weekend, I participated in a plein air event at the Friends of Horicon Marsh Educational Center in Horicon, Wisconsin.  It was SO much fun!  Five of us each took our materials out on the patio of the gorgeous center, and created works based on this view:

It was a pretty chilly day - a high of only 54° (or 12°C).  And the minute I set up my carving station, press and tools, it started to rain.  :/  Not to worry, though - it only sprinkled and after that, we just worked in the wind and clouds!

You may be wondering why I'm talking about carving at a plein air event!  That was the beauty of this specific gathering - it was an all-medium day!  Sue Hoehnen, the founder of Wild Goose Fine Arts United, wanted it to be open to anyone who wanted to participate!  And since only one of the five of us came armed with paints, I'd say that this is a new rule whose time has come!  :D  (For those of you who are unaware of what "plein air" means:  It's a form of painting [traditionally, only oils or watercolors] outside.  Most events do not allow any other mediums, such as printmaking, collage, needle felting or photography, which is what we did on Saturday!)

My goal was to sketch my design, carve my block, and print the block right there.  I didn't make it as far as the printing, but I did get the whole block done!  I was really happy I got that far, and it's probably best that I stopped when I did - I forgot sunscreen.  :)

Carol Toepke, the photographer at the event, snapped this great photo of me working (you can see the center in the background, and the sun had peeked out at this point!):

Photo courtesy of Carol Toepke, owner
of Collections by Carol

It was SO fun to actually carve what I was seeing at the time!  I made sure the design was simple enough to be completed in the 3 1/2 hours I was working.  I also allowed enough time for socializing with my Dodge County friends!  

Even though I didn't get to print on site, I finished the print this morning!  I inked the block using two separate brayers so that I could get two different colors at the same time.  After the ink dried, I embellished a little with some watercolors.  This is a real departure from my normal work, but I like how it turned out! This will be an edition of 10.  I call it, "Stormy Day on the Marsh".   :)

If you've never experienced carving en plein air, I highly encourage you to do so!  It was a truly fun experience.  :D

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Childhood Inspiration who Still Inspires!

Throughout my adult life, I have kept coming back to those things that held a deep fondness or interest for me when I was a kid.  From my second grade stamp collection to my burgeoning collection of old labels when I was 14, to my desire to own any and all manner of tiny "printing press" toys - I am of the firm belief that what you loved when you were young is what you come back to as your passion in adulthood.

Speaking of childhood inspirations - growing up, Ed Emberley was one of my favorite authors!  I pored over his "Make a World" - the simple shapes and tininess of the drawings allowed me to draw small worlds. Since I first checked it out of the Ashwaubenon library in 1977, I've owned several copies.  I STILL own a copy, as a matter of fact, and thumb through it often (about those thumbs - remember "The Great Thumbprint Drawing Book"?).

I didn't realize until recently that Mr. Emberley was the also the illustrator (and his wife the adapter) of Drummer Hoff, a book that has left an indelible print on my heart (and for which Ed and Barbara Emberley won a Caldecott medal in 1968).  I read this book, ad nauseam,  as a very small girl.  I remember being somewhat terrified of the psychedelic colors and designs of the beautiful woodcuts, and yet I couldn't stop looking.  There was something magical about those illustrations!

Then, in January of 2013, as I was just discovering the magical world of relief printmaking and woodcuts in general, I found this glorious book:

I was at the Milwaukee Public Library's book sale, and felt like I was committing a crime - I got this book for one American dollar.  I was smitten with the cover immediately, but then I looked inside and found pages like this:

The Story of Paul Bunyan, by Barbara Emberley and woodcut illustrations by Ed Emberley, 1963.

Those TREES!  They're just so....woodcutty!  So simple, yet so gorgeous.  The whole book is chock full of incredible woodcut illustrations.  My copy is one from the fourth printing, in 1966 (the book initially went to press in 1963).  Every illustration almost feels like it was printed directly on the page - it is somewhat embossed!  And if you notice, there is some bleed-through from the proceeding page!  I don't know how this happened - maybe it's just the fact that it's a 48 year-old book, but it just feels so real.  This book inspired me to start carving my own designs - once again, Ed Emberley gave me the courage to create, just like he had 36 years prior.  :)  

So imagine my utter delight when I got this notification in my e-mail yesterday:

Are you KIDDING ME?!?!?  Ed Emberley, following ME?!?!?  This news made my whole week, month and year!  :D  

To all of my fellow printmakers and other artist friends - do yourselves a favor and discover (or rediscover) Mr. Emberley's work!  You won't be disappointed.  :D  And thanks for following me, Ed!  :D

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Plethora of Printmaking!

Image  ©Fuzzy Door Productions

Is it just me, or do you feel as though there's a resurgence of printmaking?

Of course, art + craft goes through trends, and right now it appears as though all manner of prints are all the rage.  Case in point:  I belong to a Facebook group called Linocut Friends, and when I joined about a year ago there were around 75 people in the group.  Today, there are 493.

Have you caught the latest incarnation of the TV show "Cosmos"?  If so, you've noticed the breathtaking animation (like the still, above).  The thing that first struck me about it was how "woodcutty" it looked!  If you haven't caught an episode (and live in a country where you can watch it), check it out.  I think you'll see what I mean.

I live in Northeastern Wisconsin and I'm so lucky to say that there are at least two fantastic exhibits that will be running now through this summer - MOWA on the Lake's (Milwaukee) fantastic "Fresh Impressions: Contemporary Wisconsin Printmakers" (which just so happens to include two of my friends and fellow WVA colleagues' work!), and The Paine Art Center's (Oshkosh) "Matisse as Printmaker" exhibition, which will feature his monotypes, etchings and linocuts!  That runs June 28-October 19.  I can't wait to see both!

A few weeks ago, we had our Wisconsin Visual Artists - NE Chapter meeting at The Mill Paper and Book Arts Center in Rhinelander.  I am the chair for our chapter, and chose this venue last fall when we didn't have a program chair.  And while it's quite a hike from Fond du Lac and other points around the state (three hours for me), we had a great turnout.  I've taken classes at The Mill previously (remember this post?), and knew how great Daniel Goscha and Debra Jircik are - and they didn't disappoint.  Debra talked about the myriad ways to make handmade paper, and Daniel led us in a letterpress project, reminding us to "MAKE" every day.  Many of the artists had never done letterpress before, and all had a great time!  Here's the piece we were able to take home:

I hope more folks discover the joys of this varied and wonderful medium - there's a lot to learn and appreciate and drool over.  Even the season (in French, anyway) calls for it - Vive le Printemps!  :D