Wednesday, August 28, 2013

phase 1 redux: develop and appreciate expertise

my first attempt at woodblock engraving
- starting with what I know -
put a bird on it ;)
 (Warning: gush ahead - possibly a little annoying - sorry about that ;))

This past week I had the chance to take a workshop with illustrator and master woodblock engraver Barry Moser at Zea Mays Printmaking (I heart Zea Mays - a studio devoted to teaching, promoting, and developing creature-friendly printmaking techniques.) I'm so happy - I always get excited about new (to me) art-techniques, but I really feel like I found it with woodblock engraving because: it's a technique that wants to be small and meticulous, it's challenging, but highly reproducible, responsive to practice, and involves very few chemicals! Love, love, love! (All those tiny parallel lines I made on things like "Open Hearted" and the neon poster to practice hand control will actually come in handy - haha.)

Even though it was a relatively short workshop (3 days), I feel like working with an expert (Barry Moser has illustrated or designed over 300 books including a version of the entire Christian Bible) saved me a phenomenal amount of "trial and error" time with information about which materials to use, how to handle and care for the tools, what are common pitfalls, and which of them are fixable (or not). Plus, I got to try printing on different papers and with different color inks :). (!!! Art-happiness)

I'm so happy, but I also feeling a little overwhelmed by extremes - for example wanting to make tiny things and giant things at the same time. (I'm in the process of writing a grant proposal for another full gallery installation...) big/small, flat/dimensional, inside/outside, happy/sad - everywhere things being broken apart into 2's.

I don't think wanting to move toward extremes at the same time is the problem though, I think what's bothering me is that keeping things separate reinforces a division: "this print is tiny (full stop). This installation tree is giant." (Not even a single "and" in that statement.) I think one of my art-missions right now is to find ways to reconcile extremes so that I can draw attention to all the beautiful between-ness (hmmmm).

But before I can get there, practice, practice, practice. I'm so excited about this technique and want to get really good at it. Even though my intention is to cut up the prints and use them in collages, I like the possibility of edition them too...

Refining for Tempus Fugit Redux: phase 1 the first go round was "do/make the work." (new question: what is "the" work - how is it particular? answer: intricate, reconciling extremes (non-binary), modular/portable, thing focused instead of space focused). I have ideas about what I want to do/make, but there is still so much to learn, which brings me to the principle for phase 1 redux: develop and appreciate expertise. (Haha - just a little, lifelong, mission there, no biggie ;)).

6 x 4" wood block engraving.  
“Leaving is not enough. You must stay gone. Train your heart like a dog. Change the locks even on the house he's never visited. You lucky, lucky girl. You have an apartment just your size. A bathtub full of tea. A heart the size of Arizona, but not nearly so arid. Don't wish away your cracked past, your crooked toes, your problems are papier mache puppets you made or bought because the vendor at the market was so compelling you just had to have them. You had to have him. And you did. And now you pull down the bridge between your houses, you make him call before he visits, you take a lover for granted, you take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic. Make the first bottle you consume in this place a relic. Place it on whatever altar you fashion with a knife and five cranberries. Don't lose too much weight. Stupid girls are always trying to disappear as revenge. And you are not stupid. You loved a man with more hands than a parade of beggars, and here you stand. Heart like a four-poster bed. Heart like a canvas. Heart leaking something so strong they can smell it in the street.”
- from a letter of Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell
(Since we're appreciating experts, I thought I'd add a caption, from one of my favorite art-making experts)