Rapunzel

June 14, 2015

rapunzel

Rapunzel, multiple plate etching, 9″ x 6″, 2010

A theme in my work is making the best of a bad situation, rather than giving up or giving in when faced with insurmountable odds. In this case, Rapunzel is not passively waiting for someone to come and rescue her. Rather, she has creatively taken the initiative. She has worked out that escape from her tower is not possible, at least not at this time. She has realized, though, that there is nothing keeping the tower rooted to one place. With a little clever engineering, she has changed the terms of her imprisonment in her own favor. She is still trapped to some extent, yet mobile and with her hair flowing free (rather than being tugged taut by someone hanging off of it).

A bad situation does not necessarily present a binary choice between staying in the situation (a bad job, an abusive relationship, a difficult existence) and escaping the situation completely. Take a step away from the “badness” (or “goodness”) of the situation and just accept it as the hand you have been dealt in life. Getting rid of the situation (getting rescued from the tower in this case) may mean missing out on the greater opportunities the problem presents in favor of taking the easier or less painful route. Embracing the situation, on the other hand, will be more difficult in the short run but make your life richer in the longer term.

This is NOT the same as saying people should just accept their bad situations. No one should stay in an abusive relationship. No one should just accept an oppressive circumstance. However, you should also not just escape in a way that make you recreate the relationship or dynamic anew in a different situation, nor ignore the strengths that may grow from the challenges you faced. The situation arose because of a problem, or a tangle of problems. Push through those problems instead of trying to around or away from them.

Make your tower mobile.

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“Your work is so Apocalyptic”

October 9, 2014

Said a woman to me at an art fair recently. I am used to lots of “Your work is so whimsical!” and “You should make children’s books!” so the apocalyptic comment was a nice change.

But, still. Odd. In my own head I think of my work as something that has moved me away from cynical, paranoid, and, well, apocalyptic thinking. I asked for clarification and we looked at Companions.

Companions, 5.5" x 4", multiple plate etching

Companions
, 5.5″ x 4″, multiple plate etching

Where I saw two friends, maybe from disparate backgrounds, on a tree-powered adventure together, she saw refugees from global climate change. And also a boat riding dangerously low in the water.

Which is why I like the occasional art fair. It is good to hear how many ways there are to interpret a visual story.

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New Grounds: The Manual for Non-Toxic Etching

February 9, 2014

After years of only existing in the authors’ heads and in classes and bits of paper at New Grounds Print Workshop in Albuquerque, NM, the premier manual for non-toxic etching is now available.  Representing the breadth and depth of 18 years of trials, experiments, failures and successes at the first non-toxic etching workshop in the United States, this book is an invaluable aid to any printmaker.

manual imagePurchase Here

With detailed lists, step-by-step instructions, and troubleshooting sections we cover:

  • Line etching
  • Aquatint
  • Spit Bite
  • Lift ground
  • Soft Ground
  • Color printing
  • Curation of hand-pulled prints
  • Instructions for setting up a non-toxic etching studio

This book offers useful information for etchers on all levels. It is invaluable for those wishing to make the transition from toxic to non-toxic etching, and it is suited as a textbook for a college level etching class.

 

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Children’s Literature (and Children’s Art)

April 4, 2013

A friend recently sent me this link to the text of “children’s” author Phillip Pullman 1996 Carnegie Medal acceptance speech.

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/pullman/author/carnegie

Pullman compares “adult” literature to “children’s” literature.  His comments may apply to the adult art world, as well, and help explain why I am frequently identified as a children’s book illustrator, despite not having set out to create children’s book illustrations.

multiple plate etching, 12" x 9"

“Entrust”, multiple plate etching, 12″ x 9″

 

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What Inspires You?

September 10, 2011

The image below was the result of me being inspired.  I had just read an article about the artist Nancy Spero in Art News, in which she was described as a person who represented her social beliefs in her life and work.  I’ve never been sure how to do this as an artist, but something about that article, and Nancy Spero, created a little moment of inspiration.  I had just started using giraffes in my work, and they were definitely meant to be artist-figures.  I also work as a high school librarian.  Much of my job feels like the scene below, where the penguin and seahorse are the students, and the soldiers are the (unfortunately too numerous) adults who seem to often be clueless about the realities of working with teenagers.  I end up spending a lot of time mediating between the two.

Defender

“Defender” 12″ x 9″, multiple plate etching, 2010

What inspires You?

I’m interested in how others respond to this topic as I try to find inspiration for the new pieces I am currently working on.


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What Is This Piece About?

July 17, 2011

I get asked this question a lot.  Sometimes I’m reluctant to answer it, because part of the fun for me is hearing what others think my work is about.  I often hear things I never thought of.

However, there is an answer to this question.  Usually, there are two answers.  One is the “Official Fine Art” answer.  Ideally, this is an articulate, meaningful-sounding answer that combines what I thought I was doing when I started the piece with an after-the-fact analysis of what I was actually doing and what the underlying meanings might be.  The other answer is the “pragmatic” one.  This is a little of the idea I started with and a lot “I wanted to see what happened if I drew this thing in that place with this other thing” together with by-products of solving composition and design problems.

An Example: 

St. Uriel, multiple plate etching, 9″ x 6″, 2009

 Official Fine Art Answer

This is part of Archangels, a series of four multiple plate etchings I completed in 2009.  Each piece depicted a traditional archangel, but played around a little with the iconography.  They were part of my ongoing attempts at “Non-Religious Religious Art”–art that starts with a a religious topic, but attempts to explore the underlying psychological or archetypal dimensions, rather than taking either a dogmatic approach or an anti-religion one.  St. Uriel has attracted the most interest.  The other three are St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael.

Uriel is also the most obscure of the four.  I think I originally knew about these four archangels as a quartet from reading Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels when I was a teenager.  In that context, Uriel was associated with earth, with the direction of South, and with Death.  When I created this image, I had a hard time finding much about Uriel.  Looking now, it seems that more information has made it online.  At the time, all I was really after was earth and an association with death in the sense of decomposition–old things needing to die and wither away so new things would be able to grow.

The Pragmatic Answer

I like drawing outhouses.  An outhouse made sense for the Uriel image, because of the decomposition/re-birth theme.

For some time, I had wanted to make a print with an elephant in it.  This was a problematic intention, as there are lots of associations with elephants I wasn’t interested in.  I wanted I radically different sort of elephant.

When I drew the cave under the outhouse, I realized I had the place to put my radically different sort of elephant.  Hallelujah!

After I drew the elephant, I realized he needed something on his back.  The nest with eggs made sense as new life.  Three is just a good number of objects to have.

That’s it.  Anything else is added by you, the viewer.  The eggs are not my three children.  Any political associations you may choose to read into the elephant are entirely about you, not any intent on my part.

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