Gouache Woodcut Collage

I’ve been looking for a new direction in my work over the past few months and have posted some of my ideas on the blog. Yet none of them have stayed with me as a path to follow–not the ideas for a dystopian card deck, nor the series on the heart. One thing I have been thinking of for years is to bring together the art works I’ve done during my life and create something new with them. I’ve done a little of that by making origami booklets out of some old prints. But recently I may have hit on something that holds promise for further work.

A few weeks ago, I began an acryl gouache painting from a line drawing I had made. The painting went through several stages but never felt skillful enough to me. Finally I decided to paint over most of the image in red and to paste parts of an old woodcut over the painting. Afterwards, I added more paint, mostly to the pieces of the woodcut. Below are some of the stages the work went through. I enjoyed the process and am now working on another piece. I am trying to draw together parts of my life with this process–the young artist and the elder.

Dream Linocut–The Search

I’m going to enter four linocuts into another exhibit at Gerrard Art Space in Toronto. It’ll be from the end of June into the first 2 weeks of July. One of the prints I’ve taken to my local framer is the one below. I carved it in the 1990s and for some reason that I can’t now recall I only printed a rough copy on newsprint. So, I’ve gone back to the lino block and have printed it on Japanese paper.

The image came from a dream I had in which my childhood dog–Cedar, a beagle, was missing and I was searching for him indoors and out. Here he is in an old photo.

Little Face Lino

It’s a beastly day here in Toronto–the whole weekend we’ve had freezing rain and ice pellets. Wind and rain are due tonight. To the rescue comes a little linocut I made in the ’80s or ’90s. I unearthed this forgotten piece just before working on the prints I’m going to enter into the miniature print show, BIMPE. It’s a simple little face that has a bit of a mysterious feel to me. I printed it on newsprint paper as a reminder of it. Here’s a detail of the repeated pattern I printed and the lino itself. I don’t recall if I ever printed the little face when I made it. If I did it would have been part of a larger design. I’m going to print a few impressions on good paper and give it the attention I think it’s due.

 

The Lion’s Birdnote

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

Flaming Book Lino

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.

censorship

 

A Poem for An Old Woodcut

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.

FormVariation4thCut

And here’s the prose and poem:

Black Waterfall

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

Reading Old Prints, 3

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.

And late last week I uploaded the transformed print from my July 20th post to my etsy shop.

Fourth Form Variation, Woodcut, ©1973, Lily S. May under previous married name, Susan Barsel-Herman.
Fourth Form Variation, Woodcut, ©1973, Lily S. May under previous married name, Susan Barsel-Herman.

FormVariation4thRearrng

FormVariation4thBklt

FormVariation4thPgs