“Totem Tree” Progression

When you work on a matrix for printmaking, the general rule is to pull an impression every time you make a change to the plate. Even if you only add a line, for instance, it’s generally important to ink the plate, wipe it and run it through the press to see how it looks. Certainly makes sense. Granted, I personally, didn’t always do that! For this particular piece, I may have skipped that step once or twice. I wanted the surprises and I wanted the processes behind drypoint, etching and aquatinting to guide me on their own.

When going back through these impressions however, I found it exciting to see the progression. And what’s even more exciting, in my opinion, is that each of these states is completely unique since I can’t go back to it! The zinc plate has been forever changed.

“Totem Tree” etching and aquatint

"Totem Tree Sepia" 2011. etching and aquatint
“Totem Tree Sepia” 2011. drypoint, etching and aquatint

My first drypoint, etching with aquatint post college. This became the beginning to my series of pseudo-mythical creatures I created as collagraphs. It will always have a soft spot in my heart. I felt so honored to have been selected to donate an impression of this to a fundraiser through the American Red Cross in NYC for tsunami relief in Japan. It was so cool seeing my work hung on an art gallery wall in NYC!


The Birth of “Fox in Flight”

"Fox in Flight Sepia" 2011. 22"x30" collagraph
“Fox in Flight Sepia” 2011. 22″x30″ collagraph

A portion of my mile and half walk to Parsons School of Design (part of my alma mater, The New School in New York City) in Union Square was through Madison Square Park. I loved winding through this park, early Saturday mornings, schlepping my printmaking supplies, while listening to my music. Quite often I would cross paths with a very furry white dog. At first, I didn’t make much of it, as there is a little dog run in this park. But as I kept seeing this white dog and other similar white beasts, I found myself recalling a dream I had as a child:

A white wolf seemingly beckoned to me. It was not in a friendly, warm way. I remember clearly his fangs. Yet, I knew not to be fearful. He paced in front of our white garage, waiting for me to exit our house and follow him. I will never forget the white wolf.

And thus, I became inspired to create a wolf-like collagraph. It would be my second attempt at an organic, uniquely shaped collagraph plate (therefore not just a 9″x12″ rectangle, for instance) The first unusual collagraph plate was my cut out tree (see below. More on that another time!).

    "First Tree" 2011. 22"x30" collagraph
“First Tree” 2011. 22″x30″ collagraph

I felt incredibly excited to work on my idea. One night, shorty after falling asleep, I lightly stirred, partially awaking with the vision of adding a wing to the wolf. I rolled over, embracing the winged wolf and eventually fell back to seep. I set out as soon as I could to begin creating these collagraph plates.

"Fox in Flight" original close up. 2011. 22"x30" collagraph
“Fox in Flight” original close up. 2011. 22″x30″ collagraph

As seen in these two photos, my first impression of “Fox in Flight” went fine enough. He was actually a bit difficult to ink. I used various sized wood blocks, wrapped with masking tape (sticky side up) to help keep him in place as I both inked and wiped him. Unlike inking and wiping a “heavy” zinc or copper plate, my collagraph plates are rather light therefore, without mounting them, I wouldn’t have been able to prepare them for the press. The process itself of inking and wiping the plate always felt invigorating and very personal. I often felt as though I was truly bonding with the plate, learning how much ink to smooth on and which areas would need extra attention while wiping the ink. It was quite meditative and I always appreciated my instructor playing Classical music in the background.

    "Fox in Flight" (Original close up) 2011. 22"x30" collagraph
“Fox in Flight” (Original close up) 2011. 22″x30″ collagraph

I was happy with the initial impression, but felt he needed some reworking. I trekked home with the fresh impression and my plates, to tackle adding more textures to my wolf inspired beast.

I realize this piece was based on my calling from a white wolf, yet I’d named it “Fox in Flight.” Well, he just ended up looking more like a fox. Looking back, maybe it was disrespectful of me, but I now feel it only gives me the opportunity to make more wolf inspired art. Because I do very much still feel a need to do just that.

A Merging of Two

I’ve just now been inspired.

"Fox in Flight Sepia" 2011. 22"x30" collagraph
“Fox in Flight Sepia” 2011. 22″x30″ collagraph

When I someday have access to a printmaking press, I’d like to print just the body of my fox-wolf-dog collagraph (see above) in white ink on dark paper (I have yet to do that). I’d next print my set of wing collagraphs (as used in my bat-owl-cat collagraph, see below) in a vibrant color on white paper.

    "Owl-Bat," 2011. 22"x30" collagraph
“Owl-Bat,” 2011. 22″x30″ collagraph

I then envision pinning the wings above my fox-wolf-dog in such a way the wings can be physically moved – to truly give this pseudomythical creature flight.

A Brief Introduction (for now)

In a quiet, calm, internally serene and focused moment, I sometimes feel a tug from the recesses of my mind and a whispering from deep within. Images of pseudomythical creatures peer out, raising their heads and presenting to me their would be figures. I reminisce about Native American Totem Poles from my upbringing in Seattle. Memories from childhood of their grand, carved figures pull me towards my collection of textured decorative papers. Various animals from my nightly dreams and daily life call to me to create my own pseudomythical creatures – to birth another being for their world.

    “To the Heavens,” 2011. 22″x30″ Collagraph
“To the Heavens,” 2011. 22″x30″ Collagraph