Waiting for the Big Snow

The weather reports keep pushing the start of snow here out by an hour at a time. I hope it misses altogether. So far just intermittent drizzly rain. The other day I walked the dam. It was lovely to be out there after a workout at the gym.

Near the car park.

At the place I turn around to head back.

And the downed trees cleared off the path.

Lots of time to draw in the Bird Stories book.

A rock pigeon. Lots of them under the pier at the dam.

And a starling to finish off the four sides of rusted pages.

I think I should do a whole page of bird legs and feet to get more practice in. I did all the carving on the owl wood block. At least I think this is all.

I am intentionally leaving some vertical marks in the background to add atmosphere.

Looking at these photos I think a bit more black carved away on his face.

Yes, definitely, now that I am looking at this full view. His face and a bit more of his body needs lightened. The knot in the wood will have to be ground out because it resists my carving tool. Later this afternoon I might go back to it.

When I got this far I decided not to do an inking up to test it until I invested in a new brayer. All the other ones I have are cheap ones and no wider than four inches. Which means I have to roll over several times in different directions to cover the block. I went online to McClains printmaking supply and ordered a new Japanese brayer that is a bit over eight inches wide. Nothing quite like Japanese printmaking tools for wood blocks.

I just now spent the last half hour or more looking at wood block printmaking online. Some blocks took three years to carve and it is reflected in the finished print. I am not at that place where the perfection is most important. What appeals to me about the wood cut over wood engraving and linoleum block printing is the mark of the wood itself. It is a less perfected image and more obviously made by taking tools to wood. There is a simplicity and direct communication from a pine board and carving tool. The images I saw were either extremely well done or super simplistic. Not much in that in-between range of wood cuts associated with early printmakers. But not Japanese…those are beyond perfection.

I got my confidence back up before going back at it by typing in “white line printmaking”. I felt chuffed seeing my name come up fairly often in that category of block printing. I can do this. I can get this owl right….or at least right enough.

Til later…

Working on the Wood Block

Very cold this morning. I tried going for my walk at the river but turned back about a third of the way upstream. The river is rising slowly.

On the way back to the car the sun broke the horizon. But I was committed to getting a latte to take home by then and checking in with the cleaning lady.

I also wanted to do a catch up on my grey owl woodcut. The drawing was finished and then transferred to the block.

Lots of pencil work on each side of the kozo paper. Then using a felt tip marker to put the blacks in. I need to do this to actually see how it might look and give me a clear idea of where to carve.

Then a start on the carving. Getting the whites cut first on the face.

I use a baby powder to sprinkle over the cut marks so it shows up white and gives me more information. Then I just keep going. It is hard to stop once I  begin. It is the hypnotic sound of the wood being rolled up and away ahead of the cutting tools. I end up saying, “Just a little bit more.” Then I stop long enough to take the block over to where it can be partially inked up with a roller.

Now I see where more delicate carving needs to be done on his face. All the wood will be carved away to the right of the owl and below the branch he is sitting on. I wonder if a bough of pine needles need to come in from the top. No. I don’t think so. So I let him sit and hope the ink dries up quickly after blotting it off the block.

I am not displeased with the body and tail of the owl but think the face needs to be lighter. It gets problematic at this point because once the wood is removed, it is gone and that area will show up white in the print. How much white? His face needs to be lighter than his body but not as light as his beak and lower cheek areas. So he sits for a couple of days.

And at three this morning I awake with the idea of doing the owl in chine colle. This way I can add a lighter grey tissue type paper for his face and a slightly darker grey for the body/tail areas. That way he will stand out from the tree he is in. Of course when you might see these birds in real life they are hard to distinguish from their perches. But I don’t want that in this print.

I want it more like this block print I did of the front yard that is not only chine colle’d, but has added fabric bits in key areas.

I won’t add fabric but do like the idea of colored papers setting the owl apart. So even though the block is a bit sticky, I will go about lightening up his face and searching for the right greys in my mostly packed up papers.

One thing I have learned is that the Great Horned Owl is a more popular subject for wood blocks because he has interesting tufts up top and much larger more expressive eyes. Plus he has more of a contrast in coloration of his feathers.

Here are two prints by Fannie Mennen that I bought from the Southern Highland Craft Guild several years ago. I had them framed together. Her owl was irresistible! And the Christopher Morley quote is constantly inspiring.

In my new house there will be several wood block prints in the main living area. There is such a mark of the hand in these type prints. Most of my favorite pieces have that carved, hammered, manipulated by hand look. Hand built pottery over turned on a wheel. Gouged with hand tools and strength rather than machines. The physical effort is so evident in the work I most appreciate and like living with.

Anyway, I am off to do a bit of carving….

Til later…


Finishing Off the Homemaker (I Think)

The two houses needed a way to get into them. So a platform with stairs and a ladder seemed right. I added a house key to the top of her head. Some stairs and a smooth stoned path are on the left brained side.  Also a small flower that my mother embroidered is at the side of the house.

But a memory of my father is what inspired the ladder access on the right brained side. When we moved from the north woods of Michigan to Florida in 1955, I was told I could not take my bike because no one rode bikes in Florida, our dog had to be given away because dogs could not live in the heat of Florida, and on and on went his proclamations. One of the houses we lived in after the move had an upstairs with no inside access to the bedrooms up there. You could go outside and around to where there were stairs, but there was the occasional snorting sound of an alligator out there hiding in a ditch waiting for one of the abhorrent little toe nail-painted French poodles that seemed to populate the state at the time.

Anyway when we moved in our father took a piece of chalk and drew a big circle on the floor and said, “If we had a dining room table it would be here.” Then he proceeded to draw smaller circles around the “table” and asked us where we would like to sit. To the side of his dining room drawings he placed an actual ladder leaned against the part way down landing from upstairs. I never did know what happened to the dining room furniture we had in the previous house. Likely he had simply left it behind at the old place, or it could have been piled in a truck he intended to unpack at his convenience. I am sure at eleven years of age and dragged into a place where girls were only allowed to wear pants (and only peddle pushers at that) on Thursdays of each week, that I was definitely not amused. My first reaction when I hear the word, “Florida”, is to cringe. And little has been done to change that reaction in today’s political climate down there.

So for my father and his creative thinking in laying out a dining room and giving us access to our bedrooms, I just had to make a ladder for that right brained side. A couple rocks I brought with me from Michigan twenty-eight years ago fit just fine.

It is sunny but cold today. A soup day for sure. But I did get a new bird drawn for the Bird Stories book.

Still no new progress on my house. But I did stop in to meet the new mayor and have a coffee while asking questions about the town. It seems like I have made a good choice all around.

Later, maybe not even til tomorrow, I will get my owl drawing transferred to the board so I can start carving. But today, it is stay warm and maybe draw some more in the Bird book. My cats have the right idea.



And one more thing. It has been such a pleasure receiving good wishes from friends down in Australia. The holiday cards are still coming in. I am so grateful to have their consideration and thoughtfulness as I wade into the next phase of my life.

I started a new regimen at the gym this week. It feels so good to hold weights in my hands and move them into positions of strength building. I quit going to the gym two years ago when Covid arrived and forgot how good it felt to work out. Beside the allure of the punching bag, the trainer gave me what she calls a slam bag. It is a circular bag weighing ten pounds. You hold it high over your head and with all your strength, throw to the floor in front of you. Reach down, pick it up, raise it high, and do it again. Three sets of twelve slams can so release stress.

Til later. Time for lunch and some hot tea. I think I will have one of the ones I brought home from Australia and drink to friends down under and here.

Sharing A Walk From Two Weeks Ago and New Drawings

I went to the gym as soon as I could this morning. I have to wait until there is enough light to feed the deer. I almost talked myself out of going over to the dam for a walk but was so glad I persevered. It was gorgeous and I was the only one there. So I took my time because of the amazing reflections.

My only company was this lone loon. He would not come closer so just shows up as a dark spot.

I liked how he swims across the sky and could have watched him much longer than I did. The walk at the dam gave me time to think about my studio work. Especially the heads. I have decided that the Homemaker needs to have stairs added to each house. They will extend like decks and find their way to the base…one meandering and the other more orderly. I will take pictures as I go with that idea.

While showing pictures of the dam, here is the latest bird for the Bird Stories Book. A swallow that frequently flies across where the pier juts out.

And the other day I started the drawing for a large board, 7″ by 24″. It was slow going but the grey owl is now completely drawn in.

Looking at the drawing in a photograph form I can see that more darkness is needed on the branch he sits on due to his own shadow. Once I am satisfied it will be slowly and precisely placed on the board with a keen eye to where those pesky knots are.

There has been no advancement on the house building since the footings are in. I stopped by to talk with the builder with a few questions yesterday. I wanted to make sure he could put a tray cupboard in the kitchen cabinets. It is so hard to put cookie sheets and cutting boards away on a flat surface. I also got some corrected measurements to place a tall cabinet in the dining room. And was told the pantry is only 20″ deep by 2′ but will have five shelves in it. And I left with a reminder from them to not hang artwork on the wall with a pocket door. They know hanging artwork is a top priority with me. I am hoping to be in by June

Tomorrow I will return to the Riverwalk but here are the pictures from when family was here over the holiday. It is a lovely spot that will be worth the twenty-five minute drive from my new house. The dam will only be a five minute drive.

This walk is stunning early in the morning. A half hour later and the magical light gives way to too much brightness.

Til later….