Flying Cards

I’ve recently had various bouts of illness. During this time, I have slowly completed print ready files of the Mirrors of the Heart card deck and have sent them off to the printer. When they are completed, I’ll show you their new look.

Also, while resting, I’ve been reworking some more of my earlier art work. Here are 3 hanging ornamental pieces I’ve made combining segments of a woodcut I made in the 1970s and extra hand coloured cards from the card deck. I’ve also added decorative starched transparent papers that I wish I could trace to a distributor again. They’re the shapes growing out of the rectangles. If the papers look familiar to anyone,  please let me know.

I’ll be putting some of these pieces in my etsy shop soon.







This week, after years of selling the original printings of the card deck I made in 1994, it sold out in my etsy shop.  Mirrors of the Heart has been the most popular item I’ve ever made. And, as an artist who has sold a modest amount of work in my life, it’s been an amazing experience to send work across the continent and overseas. I’m now looking into getting the cards reprinted and will let you know how that goes.

Now all I’m left with are extra cards that do not make up complete decks. These are ones I set aside when I found printing glitches in other cards. I’ve been hand colouring some of these with non-toxic permanent markers. Here are some I’ve grouped in sets of 4 for my shop.


Mirrors of the Heart Page

Finally, this week I did something I’ve been planning to do for a while.  I created a page about the most popular art work I’ve done–my card deck, Mirrors of the Heart.  It’s made of linocuts I created in 1994 and had offset printed. There are other images from the deck in the Mirrors category.

Celebration card from Mirrors of the Heart card deck, ©1994, Lily S. May

Celebration card from Mirrors of the Heart card deck, ©1994, Lily S. May

Mirrors of the Heart Card Deck

Mirrors of the Heart

Mirrors of the Heart–some of the cards in the deck–by Lily S. May, copyright 1994

Like it or not, it’s Valentine’s Day.  And because of that, I’m offering up some hearts from the card deck I made in 1994.  Mirrors of the Heart grew out of my interest at that time in tarot cards.  I thought of each card as being a quality that the heart, or at least my heart, desires.  It’s an oracle deck, a deck for storytelling.

 The deck has been the largest single project I’ve ever created.  I remember feeling a strong sense of accomplishment in taking the deck from the stages of thought and intuition through to carving the 44 linocuts that comprise it. 

Mirrors of the Heart

Some cards from Mirrors of the Heart card deck, copyright 1994, Lily S. May

Over time, I saw the card deck as a sort of unbound book.  I’ve recently thought of this as I turn some of my old prints into booklets and send them out as mail art.

 May the heart be with you and may you be graced by love.

If you’d like more information about the Mirrors Deck, see my site or my etsy store. Thanks!

Mental Gymnastics in Printmaking

Subtraction Print Detail

Detail of Subtraction Print by Lily S. May

When I did printmaking I greatly enjoyed the mental gymnastics that were part of the process.  First of all, you have to consider that everything you carve prints in reverse.  This requires particular attention when you include words or numbers in the image.  I recall times when my mind wandered and I found myself carving letters as they are normally written.  I had to begin again, sometimes with curses, because the letters would have printed backwards had I continued.  And yet I still enjoyed the flipped perspective, the element of surprise.

Even more mind bending is a type of multi-coloured printmaking called subtraction or reduction printing.  Using this method, you gradually cut away more and more of the block, inking and printing each colour as you go along.  So, there’s no turning back.  I had to talk to myself regularly when figuring out what colour would print next as the layers progressed and what I had to carve away.  While some people might find this process tedious, I found it added another edge of challenge.

Lino and Print

Lino block and print from Mirrors of the Heart Cards by Lily S. May

Here’s an example of the side to side reversal of a lino block and the printed image.  The linoleum was originally all brown as in the remaining raised areas in this image.  The carved design shows up nicely because the inks I used to print the lino block stained the carved areas.  So you can easily see the word “celebration” spelled out backwards at the bottom.  Another easy to see example of the reversed image is the bird flying on the right side of the lino and on the left side of the printed image.

Subtraction Print

Subtraction colour block print by Lily S. May

I’ve also got an example of a subtraction colour print and block.  This is one of a series of abstract unplanned colour prints I made in 1993. In this print, I began by cutting away the areas that would show the white paper and printing what remained with green ink.  Then I cut away all the areas I wanted to be green in the final print and printed the remaining areas red.  And finally, I cut away everything I wanted to show as red and printed the remaining portions of the block with dark blue ink.  All that’s left of the block that you see here is the portion that I inked in blue.

Subtraction Print Block

Printing block for subtraction print shown above by Lily S. May

The block may seem confusing because it’s green.  But that’s not from the ink.  That’s the actual colour of the block which is some sort of flexible rubber or plastic from Japan.  The cut away parts are the black areas.

Mirror Images

Observers Linocut by Lily S. May

Observers Linocut by Lily S. May

By the time I reached my mid 20s, I had become wary of courses in art.  And, so, I set out to teach myself, as much as was possible, how to make linocuts and woodcuts.  Outside of one or two prints I’d made in high school art classes, printmaking was a new venture for me.

When I began my studies in 1971, I turned to the many excellent printmaking books that were available.  I collected several of them and poured over the books, learning techniques and being inspired by the prints in them.

Linocut by Lily S. May

Woman & Tree Linocut by Lily S. May

Gradually, through practice, I became more adept at using the tools and materials and eventually focused on making linocuts.  I figured if linoleum was good enough for Picasso, it was good enough for me.

The two parts of the relief printmaking process (so named because you carve an image in relief in wood, linoleum or other materials) that I enjoyed the most were carving the linoleum and being surprised when I’d first see the printed mirror image of what I’d carved.  And, in writing this just now, I’ve had one of those “aha” moments when something seemingly obvious, but previously unseen, hits you.  That is, the title of my linocut-made card deck—Mirrors of the Heart—is an apt title for a work produced using mirror images.

Mirrors of the Heart

Title Card from Mirrors of the Heart Card Deck by Lily S. May

Although I no longer make prints—after over 20 years, the repetitive carving movements hurt too much—I still love seeing linocuts, woodcuts and wood engravings.  There’s a feeling to all three prints that is hard for me to convey in words, except to say they have great energy and expressive power for me.

Only now do I piece together the importance of an exhibit of Russian woodcuts I saw as a child.  These were mostly black and white forceful images that I found beautiful and that transported me to places I loved.  Among the works were some of snow—I believe in woods or on fences and perhaps houses.  It was out of this exhibit that my love of the relief print grew.  And I see that those haunting prints from the land of my ancestors were, in part, responsible for my becoming a printmaker years later.

Abstract Woodcut

An abstract woodcut made in the 1970s by Lily S. May.

Art and Intuition

I no longer have any art work that I did between the age of three and my early twenties, other than one or two pieces that are now on relatives’ walls.  I would love to see some of that lost work today. 

Scribble drawing

A scribble drawing I did at 21 

I have, however, kept a small sketchbook and index cards from the late 1960s when I was between twenty-one and twenty-three.  The drawings in and on them marked an important step in my creative life.  They arose from my scribbling with felt pens or pencil and seeing what the lines suggested to me.  This process felt like looking for shapes in changing clouds.  I don’t know how I thought of doing this, except that this way of working felt freeing to me.

Mirrors of the Heart Title Card

Mirrors of the Heart Title Card and lino block

I carried this intuitive approach into the printmaking that I began in my mid twenties and into many of the different media that I’ve worked with.  I’ll show you some examples from an oracle card deck I made in the 1990s.  Although some planning was involved, the drawings that I turned into linocuts came about from scribbling and developing images from there.  (I’ll write more about Mirrors of the Heart cards in further posts.)

Celebration Card Detail

Detail of Celebration Card from Mirrors of the Heart Card Deck

Touch Card

Detail of Touch Card from Mirrors of the Heart Card Deck by Lily S. May