As I’m going through my old journals, I find forgotten elements–particularly the content of dreams. A few weeks ago, I came upon a curious and appealing dream fragment from June of 1993. At that time, I awoke with words telling me that centuries would pass before we discovered that the “L” in “Lion” was understood as its birdnote. I loved this strange sentence and decided to make a linocut from the words.
The lino that I’ve used is the same soft cut material that I used for the Sisters of Mercy print. It is very much easier to cut than the tough grey or brown burlap backed battleship linoleum that I used as a young woman. I’ve taken the first proof (rough copy) of the print and will work on it further. I plan on leaving the final print quite similar to this first proof–it just needs a bit of further carving and experimentation with the colours.
Here’s the inked green lino and the hand printed proof.
You can see more of my artwork in my etsy shop at artsofmay.etsy.com
While I was searching through my early prints for one of my first linocuts, I came across the print in this post that I made in the mid 1980s. (It’s not the print I was originally looking for.) The linocut here was an illustration for an article in the Canadian literary magazine Quill and Quire. Somewhere, I may have the actual page from the journal, but I haven’t located it yet. From what I recall, the article had to do with censorship and political repression. In that sense, it definitely fits with the mood of these times of political unrest to out and out war. Being born right after World War II and hearing many stories of it while growing up, the image also evokes shadows of the history of that war for me. The initials “SB” are from my birth name that I was still using at the time.
As I continue turning some of my early prints into booklets, I’m playing around with words I might include with the prints. This last print I’ve been working with (the one that’s also in my previous post) has a lot of black ink in it. And that got me thinking about some writing I did a few years ago. In 2014 I took a poetry writing workshop at the Art Gallery of Ontario. After our meetings, I’d often wander around the Gallery, looking at various art works. This prose and poem came out of one of those meanderings. I’m contemplating the design of the booklet and will show it to you when I’ve completed it.
Here’s another photo of the woodcut I plan to use that I’ve cut down the middle.
And here’s the prose and poem:
On a day when the tomb-like qualities of the gallery seep into me too much, I enter the rooms of David Milne’s paintings looking for peace. I find some here, away from the more flashy works of Lauren Harris and Frank Carmichael. Milne’s are quieter, less assuming, but they give back to me, emitting life.
I stand looking at one that I like. It’s called Black Waterfall, a scene in the woods by a small falls. The water is, indeed, black, the colours subdued. After many minutes, I am surprised to see what I hadn’t noticed: Milne, himself, at his easel in the upper left of the painting. He’s the same colours as the trees, rocks and earth. He has disappeared into the scene or become one with it. I like the humility, the humour and the wisdom of his image, considering where the alienation from nature has taken humanity.
This is a painting I can carry with me, softening the dense traffic of the city, helping me inhale forested air where rivers flow, while the ghost of the artist amidst the trees silently witnesses my passing presence.
By the black waterfall
the painter has disappeared
into the trees, rocks and soil
where, being invisible,
he can more closely observe passersby
and the woods and water he’s depicting
camouflaged at his easel like a deer
but not bolting
steady of hand and sight
neither a conqueror
nor a slave
embodying a gentle way
to save a life.
©Lily S. May–May 2014
The most recent origami booklet I’ve made is from a woodcut I carved and printed in 1973. It’s called Forth Form Variation and is from a series I did playing around with several shapes. I used two pine boards that I lined up to make the whole image. I have loved trees since childhood and I enjoyed making an image that felt powerful to me.
When I measured the actual print size, I saw that if I cut the print in four, I could wind up with different sized square booklets. After I made the first cut, I flipped the parts of the original around and placed them next to each other to create different designs. I’ve got a photo of one of these arrangements below. This is a process I’ve always enjoyed. I used a variation of it in some of my prints. I’d print the original block in different colours and overlap the colours in two stages, orienting them in opposite directions. I loved the surprising designs that emerged.
Here’s also photos of the first of the four booklets. I kept it quite simple, only adding a bit of colour with Pitt markers.
Here’s a woodcut I made in 1973 from 2 planks of pine. I loved the knots and wood grain and made them part of the print. The image draws, once again, on my love of trees.
As I meander through the work I’ve done, I wanted to show you a linocut I made in 1973, two years into first taking up printmaking and signed under my former married name. It’s the last copy of the edition that I have and is framed behind glass. So the photos here have some reflections in them. (I must get some proper photos!) The image is one of several I did on the theme of nature and goddesses. I called this print Mother Nature in the Sea.
Here’s another woodcut–this time it’s one of the first I made. Some of the earliest prints I made began as scribbled drawings. In “Orange Girl,” I included some the lines from the drawing in the print, showing its origins. I recall that I experimented with carving a hard wood–either maple or oak. It wasn’t easy, but a hard wood produces very crisp lines. “Orange Girl” is a subtraction print, one in which you gradually carve away more of the block as you print each colour. There’s no going back because by the end, much of the block is carved away. In this case, only the grey blue areas remained on the wooden block.