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Art

Birds Swoop and Swell into Imagined Inky Murmurations in Fiona Watson’s Etchings

August 24, 2022

Grace Ebert

“The Murmuration Tree.” All images © Fiona Watson, shared with permission

“Biology is a very visual science—macro and microscopically,” says Fiona Watson. The Scotland-based artist channels her background in this field into a multi-media practice that spans photography, painting, land art, and printmaking. Observation, interpretation, and creativity by way of critical thinking are fundamental in both the sciences and art, and Watson harnesses these skills to create etchings of murmurations that mimic birds’ paths as they swoop through the sky. Collective flights “are extraordinary both metaphorically as shapeshifters occupying the space between heaven and earth and biologically as hundreds of organisms moving as one,” she tells Colossal.

Beginning with a digital sketch, Watson imagines various phenomenological patterns that she then translates to a copper plate using wax resists and acids. After inking the drawing, she sends it through the etching press, a process used for centuries.

The artist works out of the Glasgow Print Studio and has a new piece in the upcoming 50th-anniversary exhibition. Explore more of her practice on her site and Instagram. (via Women’s Art).

 

“The Persistence of Sound”

“Dark Sun Murmuration”

“And Then Songs Filled the Air”

“The Kindness of Trees”

“First There is a Mountain”

“Once Upon a River”

“The Waggle Dance”

 

 



Art

Dozens of Carved Layers Compose Vivid Linocut Prints of Cats and Bouquets by Vanessa Lubach

June 13, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Helen with Geraniums.” All images © Vanessa Lubach, shared with permission

Norfolk-based artist Vanessa Lubach likens her printmaking practice to that of oil painting and draws on the latter to inform her vibrant compositions. “I linocut like a painter and paint like a linocutter, and the two disciplines work together to inform and enhance each other,” she tells Colossal. Whether depicting bunches of dahlias and cosmos in a ceramic pitcher or an enchanting forest landscape, Lubach’s works center on quiet moments in domestic interiors or out among nature.

Each piece begins with a sketch and a general idea of the palette. “I’m always optimistic that I can limit the colour layers to around a dozen at this point, but that almost never happens. They almost always end up in the 20s,” she says. After drawing and carving the main image, or key block, she prints and transfers the composition to additional blocks designed for each individual color. Some pieces, like the ceremonial “Allotment Bouquet,” take almost a year to complete.

Two of Lubach’s works are included in the traveling 84th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wood Engravers, which is on view through July 9 at Sea Pictures Gallery in Suffolk. She also has a variety of prints available on Etsy and shares much more of her process and glimpses into her studio on Instagram. (via Women’s Art)

 

“Hector with Dahlias”

“Hector with Dahlias”

“Hector with Dahlias”

“Allotment Bouquet”

“Allotment Bouquet”

“Blickling Through The Trees”

“Blickling Through The Trees”

“Dahlia and Cosmos”

 

 



Art Craft Illustration

Seven Artists Crack Open the Art of Printed Matter in ‘Bookworks’

May 17, 2022

Kate Mothes

Guy Laramée, “Encyclopedie Larousse” (detail), carved books, pigments, inks, and metal clip. All images courtesy of James Freeman Gallery

Books have beguiled us since they first emerged in the form of ancient scrolls and codices around the world. The way we access, utilize, and enjoy reading material has seen technological transformation over the centuries, from Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the 15th century, to the first dictionary produced in 1532, to the advent of affordable pocket paperbacks in the early 20th century. Paper tomes have had an immeasurable impact on society and our ability to relay knowledge, and even in an age of digital e-readers, the physical volume still embodies an appeal as timeless as literature itself. In a new exhibition in London, the world of reading provides a starting point for the seven artists to explore a wide range of themes and materials, highlighting our perennial fascination with the printed and bound medium.

Cheri Smith, Russell Webb, Guy Laramée (previously), Aron Wiesenfeld, Guillermo Martin Bermejo, El Gato Chimney, and Claire Partington (previously) work across a wide range of styles including sculpture, illustration, painting, and printmaking. In Bookworks, Laramée’s deconstructed reference volumes are transformed into miniature topographical landscapes that challenge our sense of scale. Cheri Smith’s paintings, sometimes painted onto book covers, reference the eccentricity of animals and how they are categorized in natural history catalogues. El Gato Chimney constructs elaborate narrative illustrations in accordion-style publications that follow an eccentric band of characters as they confront giant creatures.

Bookworks is on view at James Freeman Gallery through June 4.

 

Guy Laramée, “Encyclopedie Larousse,” carved books, pigments, inks, and metal clip

Guy Laramée, “Encyclopedie Larousse,” carved books, pigments, inks, and metal clip

El Gato Chimney, “The Frog’s Apparition” (2021), watercolor and gouache on Moleskine notebook

El Gato Chimney, “The Frog’s Apparition” (2021), watercolor and gouache on Moleskine notebook

El Gato Chimney, “Crazy Wind” (2022), watercolor and gouache on Moleskine notebook

El Gato Chimney, “Kyu! Kyu!” (2022), watercolor and gouache on Moleskine notebook

Guy Laramée, “Petit Larousse Illustré” (2019), carved dictionary, pigments, inks, brass clip

Guy Laramée, “Petit Larousse Illustré” (2019), carved dictionary, pigments, inks, brass clip

Aron Wiesenfeld, “Readers” (2021), gouache on paper

Russell Webb, “Portrait of the Artist as an Author” (2022), oil paint and varnish on ply

Cheri Smith, “Sausage” (2020), oil on board 

 

 



Art

LEGO Letterpress: Bird Species from The Netherlands Are Printed with Everyone’s Favorite Toy Bricks

February 14, 2022

Grace Ebert

35 birds. All images © Roy Scholten, shared with permission

Back in 2017, designer Roy Scholten and collaborator Martijn van der Blom brought LEGO into their letterpress workshops for elementary school students. Small and accessible to most, the ubiquitous plastic bricks were easier and faster to use than traditional lead type and were familiar creative tools for many of the children. Around the same time, the pair also developed a series of LEGO dinosaur prints in subtle gradients, an early collection that inspired Scholten’s ongoing project using the unusual material.

From his studio in Hilversum, Scholten forms dozens of winged creatures found in The Netherlands as part of 50 Birds. The 6 x 6-inch designs adeptly arrange the rigid blocks into beaks and round bellies with small lines of white left between. He describes his process:

Creating a design starts with establishing the outline, the total shape, and posture of the bird in question. Once that puzzle is solved, that construction is then divided up again into three to six different “lego stamps”, one for each color. Each stamp gets printed in the right order so that the combination results in the finished design.

Scholten releases 20 editions of each work, and keep an eye on Instagram for his upcoming renditions of the kingfisher, jay, dunnock, blue-headed wagtail, and the odd duck. If you’re in the area, he also offers weekly letterpress and monoprinting workshops at Grafisch Atelier Hilversum. You also might enjoy these LEGO typeface studies. (via Present&Correct)

 

Finch

Goldfinch

Coot

Collared dove

Magpie

 

 



Art

At the Annual Roadworks Festival, a 7-Ton Steamroller Prints Linocuts in San Francisco’s Streets

October 5, 2021

Grace Ebert

In a neighborhood of tech giants and startups, the San Francisco Center for the Book is decidedly analog. The nonprofit has been a hub for printmaking and book arts for Bay Area creatives since it opened 25 years ago, offering about 300 workshops and classes in papermaking, letterpress, binding techniques, and a range of other processes to thousands of students each year.

Beyond wanting to provide a space for local artists and those interested in the practice, though, one of the center’s tenets is community engagement, a commitment that manifests in the spectacular day-long Roadworks festival. The annual event, which was pared down in 2020 due to COVID-19 precautions, began in 2004 as a way to expand the organization’s footprint beyond its own walls, but it wasn’t until 2013 that it grew into the dramatic occasion it is today. Roadworks celebrated its 18th year this September and brought back its prized activity: printing dozens of linocuts with a 1924 Buffalo Springfield steamroller.

 

All images courtesy of Roadworks, shared with permission

Each year, the center brings in the seven-ton machine from Roots of Motive Power to produce a series of 42-inch square prints in the middle of San Francisco’s streets. The process is as monumental as the event, requiring dozens of volunteers and fast-moving hands to create works successfully in the midday sun and wind. “It’s an interesting printmaking challenge in that you get to practice once a year,” says Chad Johnson, the center’s studio director and a resident instructor who’s been at the helm of Roadworks in recent years. “There’s no replication of all of the conditions except for when you do it.”

The actual process utilizes the street as the base of the press, with an insulating rubber mat on top to counter any debris. A piece of MDF particle board—the team prefers this material to plywood because it has no grain and can distribute pressure evenly—marked with a taped registration system sits on top. Once Johnson inks the plate with the yellow- and purple-tinted pigments specific to Roadworks, he has to quickly position it on the ground and have two others cover it with paper. “The only other trick is keeping the plate wet up until two minutes before. There’s no amount of ink that I can get on it that won’t dry in the wind and the sun,” he says.

After that, the rest is similar to the etching press, although it happens on a much greater scale. The team lays down a plastic tablecloth to prevent steam leakage on the paper, then a wool blanket, and finally a thick rug that serves as an insulator from the massive machine. After two rolls, the team peels off the layers and reveals the finished prints. Roadworks “has the ability to broaden the range of outreach by the sheer fact that it’s a steamroller,” Johnson shares, sometimes printing “Godzilla, sometimes a tree, sometimes a plant.” Most years, the group produces between 30 and 35 pieces within a few hours, although 2021 saw its largest collection of 38.

 

Alongside the larger prints created by a trio of committee-selected artists, the festival also sells linocut kits prior to the event that allows community members to carve their own works and see them realized day-of. “The idea was to get people excited about printing on a grandiose scale, and I think for me, that’s still really an amazing, powerful thing,” Johnson says, noting that these projects also garner essential funding for the nonprofit.

Although this year’s prints are sold out, the center is selling totes that feature a 2004 steamroller design by Rik Olson, a local artist who’s participated in the festival for nearly two decades. You can see more photos from Roadworks 2021 and watch for information on next year’s event on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art History

‘Fantastic Landscapes’ Surveys the Vivid Use of Color in Hokusai and Hiroshige’s Woodblock Prints

July 16, 2021

Grace Ebert

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Yamashiro Province: The Togetsu Bridge in Mount Arashi (Yamashiro, Arashiyama Togetsukyo),” from the series Famous Places in the Sixty-Odd Provinces (Rokujuyoshu meisho zue), 1853

An exhibition opening this weekend at the Art Institute of Chicago plunges into the vast archives of renowned Japanese ukiyo-e artists Katsushika Hokusai (previously) and Utagawa Hiroshige (previously). Fantastic Landscapes brings together the vivid scenes created by the prolific printmakers through the first half of the 19th Century with a particular focus on their innovative uses of color. Peach skies, grassy bluffs in chartreuse, and their extensive applications of Prussian blue—Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” famously layers the chemical pigment—mark a broader shift in the artform. Today, the pair are largely attributed with sparking a worldwide fascination with Japanese prints.

Explore some of the woodblock works on view as part of Fantastic Landscapes below, and see them in person between July 17 and October 11. You also might enjoy this monumental book compiling Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji and Hiroshige’s delightful shadow puppets.

 

Katsushika Hokusai, “The Back of Mount Fuji Seen from Minobu River (Minobugawa Urafuji),” from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), about 1830/33

Katsushika Hokusai, “Amida Falls in the Far Reaches of the Kisokaido (Kisoji no oku Amidagataki),” from the series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces (Shokoku taki meguri)

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Plum Garden at Kameido (Kameido Umeyashiki),” from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei)

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Awa Province: Naruto Whirlpools (Awa, Naruto no fuha),” from the series Famous Places in the Sixty-odd Provinces (Rokujuyoshu meisho zue), 1855

Katsushika Hokusai, “A Mild Breeze on a Fine Day (Gaifu kaisei),” from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei), c. 1830/33

Katsushika Hokusai, “Kirifuri Falls at Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province (Shimotsuke Kurokamiyama Kirifuri no taki),” from the series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces (Shokoku taki meguri), c. 1833