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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hall of Heroes: Edvard Munch


I scream for Munch's "Scream."
This painting seems...familiar.
Although in my own work, I tend to gravitate toward the light and bright, that is certainly not where I live, day-to-day, as my poor wife will tell you. And while my output over the years has focused on the visual beauty of nature, my creativity feeds mainly on the stark, tortured and emotionally anguished images of the Expressionists. Favorite among them, of course, is Edvard Munch (pronounced "Moooonk", although if you pronounce it to rhyme with "crunch", it will make Expressionists around you laugh, and face it, they could use a smile).

Most famous for "The Scream," Munch is as well known for his woodcuts as he is for his paintings. In fact, he often did the same images in different media.


Munch is often referred to as "The Clown Prince of Norwegian Expressionism." Not.
I find his woodcuts severe, having a certain darkness that the paintings do not. He takes no opportunity to smooth out the gouges in the wood, and sometimes it looks like they were made by a prisoner who only had a nail and a board. That, of course, is a compliment.

It hasn't shown up yet, but Munch's inspiration is in me, somewhere. Maybe over there, in that cobwebbed, shadowy corner in my mind.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hall of Heroes: Gwen Diehn

In the spring of 2002, as I continued educating myself on the art of woodcut printmaking, I hit the library, and hit it hard, looking for any books on technique. There weren't many, but there was one, and it was spectacular: "Simple Printmaking," by Gwen Diehn.

Not only was it full of projects and tep-by-step techniques, but it also had a full color gallery of woodcuts by artists I would later communicate with through barenforum.org. It helped push me further down the rabbit hole and into a deeper world of printmaking. Visit Diehn at http://real-life-journals.blogspot.com/









Monday, March 24, 2014

Hall of Heroes: David Bull and Barenforum.org

Being an artist can be hard on the head, heart and hands. It can be a lonely journey, even for the most introverted. I think it's important to have a community for support, information and networking.

David Bull
For relief printmakers there is no better resource than the Baren Forum. Founded in Japan by a Canadian ex-pat named David Bull, who works in traditional Japanese printmaking, Baren Forum is a friendly group of artists who are always there to help you get through the rough spots, and to cheer your victories.

I hate to think how slow and painful this journey could have been with out this group. Visit www.barenforum.org, and check out the many galleries of fine, fine work from all over the world.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hall of Heroes: Matt Brown

After making my first woodcuts, I went looking for other woodcut artists on the web, and I was not disappointed. One of the first to pop up was the work of artist Matt Brown.

While his subject matter is decidedly American, my favorites being his urban prints, his style comes from the traditional Japanese hanga method. Soft, fluid colors give the prints a dreamy look, as opposed to the bold blocks of color present in western-style woocuts.

I would later learn that Dorothy Markert had studied at one of Matt Brown's workshops. Small world!

Visit him at www.ooloopress.com.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hall of Heroes: Dorothy Markert

Maple Avenue Sunset by Dorothy Markert
 When you want to be good at something, you look to the best for guidance. Often that means reading a lot of books and visiting a lot of galleries, because that's usually about as close as you get to the greats.

About the same time I was discovering Gustave Baumann, I saw a sign announcing a screen printing demonstration by Roycroft Master Artisan Dorothy Markert. to be held at the Hamburg Library. The event, as I recall, was a full house (I was later to learn that, as a Hamburg Village resident, she has a tremendous local fan base). Though Dorothy is most notably a screen printer and I am a woodcut printer, I found her work fascinating and inspirational.
Palace Theater by Dorothy Markert

She'll deny it, but Dorothy ia a celebrity among art aficianados. She has retired from doing shows, but she still gets her arm twisted enough to give the occasional demonstration or teach a class (I was fortunate to be her student for several weeks during an otherwise long and dreary winter in early 2005, a very fond memory).

A few years ago, my wife and I acquired the Monarch print seen here, which hangs in a beautiful arts and crafts frame hand-built by her husband, John, a fantastic craftsman in his own right.

Dorothy's warmth and eagerness to share her skill makes her a true treasure, and I will always be grateful for her work, her teaching and her friendship.


Visit Dorothy's page at: http://www.dorothymarkert.com/

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hall of Heroes: Gustave Baumann

Gustave Baumann has been the single greatest influence on me as a printmaker. Shortly after I began with woodcuts, a Baumann print showed up on an episode of "Antiques Roadshow" on PBS. I was probably only a month or two into printmaking, and I didn't know any woodcut artists. The only woodcuts I'd really seen were the black & white wordless books of Frans Masereel and some graphic design work. Gustave Baumann opened the door to amazing possibilities in print.

A year later, I learned that there was going to be a small display of Baumann's western works at the Chicago Institute of Art. We took the train to Chicago to take in the exhibit, a glass artists' convention, and a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Before settling down in New Mexico, where a museum houses many of his works, Baumann spent a short period of time in Wyoming, NY, a hop skip and a jump down Route 20A here in Western New York. It's fun to match up some of his prints of that time with the landscape in that area.

I have two large books of Baumann's work, and I still reference them when I'm drawing out plans for a print, and I imagine I always will.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Under Construction

On May 5, I will be unveiling a whole new website, as well as a number of portals through which you can view all-new work.

In the meantime, I'm going to pay tribute to printmakers who have inspired me since I first started down this awesome road 12 years ago. So please check back regularly to learn a little about these great artists, and what they've meant to me.

The picture at right is a useless project brought to you by the once-poignant UB School of Architecture. It always makes me mad to look at it. I assume it's still standing over on Buffalo's West Side, because it's in a pretty lousy neighborhood where everyone's just given up anyway.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Catching Up

 
It was somewhere in the middle of the "DeSoto" print, or maybe very near the beginning, or perhaps even in the middle of "Memorial Day," that I realized that something didn't feel right. I mean, the prints themselves had their issues, and I wasn't happy with them, but the frustration went far deeper.

It was August, a really hot, steamy August, here on the shores of Lake Erie. I was still getting used to our new place back in Hamburg after fleeing our rotting house in South Buffalo. I had my work space pretty well set up in a clean, dry and well-lit basement, plenty of board to cut, plenty of ink to roll, lots of paper to print on. And, after several dry years, lots of ideas.

And I think it was the disconnect between the sweet scenes in my head and the...stuff...that was coming from my hands that was really getting me down. The pretty "Autumn Camper" had turned out to be an anomaly, and I found that terrifying.

I'm a self-taught printmaker, and as such, I know that I can expect a lot of moments of frustration as I learn along the way (and that was what last year's daily updates were about, the journey to figuring it all out). But what about being an artist? And just exactly what does  that mean?
Art has a pretty sad history in my family. Though my dad was a craftsman in spirit, the only real art ever practiced on that side was sarcasm and covering up odd branches on the family tree. My mom's side was creative, but sad; my grandparents told my uncle that if he could copy a tapestry with pencil, they'd try to find a way to send him to art school. According to my grandmother, he did, and it was beautiful, like a photocopy. Unfortunately, there still wasn't any money, and he went onto a rewarding career in the US Navy. My mother was also a natural artist and crafter. She didn't draw or paint much, but when she did, it was flawless, and beautiful. For his part, my brother actually was able to marry talent and ambition, and is an architect.
Me? Funny story. I'm pretty sure I was the only kid in 6th grade carrying around a Picasso monograph. Yeah, I had all the silly notions of what it was to be an artist that a young kid has, but I also really loved art. But every time I touched a pencil to a piece of paper, it was a disaster. In my mind, anyway. But I still tried. My notebooks through high school looked like a cross between a comic book and a cave painting, but looked nothing like a notebook. Still, when the time came to pick a path and head to college, I chose journalism.
Mmmm. Smart choice.
But what I wanted to study was art. Why didn't I. Because I was told, by my folks, by my teachers, by family friends: you can't make a living as an artist. Unfortunately, I accepted this at face value, not even bothering to investigate all of the art-based careers out there.
That, and I couldn't draw noses. Seriously. I got so hung up on not being able to draw a proper nose that, instead of actually learning to draw a nose, I avoided an entire discipline for almost 20 years. And then, one night I dreamed of carving a block and printing it on paper, having little knowledge of block printing, and I began working and studying on my own.
Again, I've done what I can through books and whatnot, and a lot of observation. But I finally realized that what was causing the disconnect was a lack of some real training, and some real guidance.

So, for the last few months, and for many years to come, I am back in school, starting from the ground up. I hope this will show in my future work. I don't plan to do daily updates, because I don't think anybody needs to know how the pictures happen, but I will post when I think there's something cool to show.



Thursday, March 13, 2014

Where Have I Been All Your Life

Yes, well, sorry about the sudden departure. No, I wasn't kidnapped, imprisoned or abducted. The real story is pretty dull and run-of-the-mill. I'm not back yet, but I'm close. So, hang in there.

One piece of the story is that, after a few less-than thrilling prints, I decided to go back to school to add some much-needed definition to a pretty decent base of self-taught skill. Best decision I ever made.

So, very soon, these pages will bloom again with artwork, so I ask that you stop by again this Spring.

If Spring ever comes.