Saturday, May 31, 2014

Return to Lino, Video and Field Sketch

Green Heron and Eastern Pondhawk. Linocut Proof by Ken Januski

I've finally returned to lino after a fairly lengthy absence. If I wasn't running short of woodclocks I might have started work on a woodblock rather than a linoleum block. But before I forget about the differences between the two it seemed like a good idea to try linocut once again.

This is about the fourth proof of a 4x6 inch print. Right now it's printed on copier paper. It's also based on a photo I took last year of a Green Heron with an Eastern Pondhawk perched a few feet away. Apparently it was far enough away, or just too small, to catch the heron's interest. If I recall correctly I saw it at the Manayunk Canal.

My original intent here was to cut one block more or less realistically printing primarily black outlines. Underneath that I would print abstract blocks of color, mainly for the heron and dragonfly.  But as I worked on it I was reminded of my old Osprey linocut with watercolor. It was a very simple, very small print where I painted each print in watercolor after I'd printed the black outline. It's something that I might experiment with here.

That print, along with my print of nine robins, is one of my most popular in terms of sales. My more ambitious prints artistically often seem to do little in the ways of sales. It seems people like their nature art simple. Or perhaps not. In any case I'm tempted to stop work on this soon, print it, and then add watercolor.

Spotted Sandpiper, Killdeer, Great Blue Heron, Canada Gosling. Field Sketches by Ken Januski.

Yesterday I was also at the Manayunk Canal hoping to see a Spotted Sandpiper. I was shocked to read today that no one knew where Spotted Sandpipers built their nests until the early 1900s when someone hunting eggs for a collector noticed an odd looking bird going high into a robin's nest. Of course it wasn't a robin's nest.

In northwest Philadelphia, not a popular shorebird destination, the shorebirds I see most frequently are Solitary Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers and of course Killdeer. At first, particularly in fall, Jerene and I had a hard time separating out the two tail-bobbing shorebirds, the Spotted and the Solitary. But over time I've realized that the Solitary is far more elegant, and the Spotted, at times looks almost comical.

He does look a bit comical I confess in my field sketch above but that's because I made the head far too large for the body. In real life he seems comical both for his quick movements and for the way he moves his legs. The closest analogy I can think of is Groucho Marx when he crouches down low and takes long strides. Recently I saw such a Spotted Sandpiper combining these two movements - long low strides with very quick movements - along some rocks on a tributary of the Wissahickon at Morris Arboretum. It was almost unbelievable and I wished that I had my camera with me so that I could capture it on video.

Since Spotteds seem to frequent the canal I was hoping to find one yesterday. As I looked at and sketched a Killdeer  I noticed other movement, closer to me. When I put down my binoculars I realized that it was a Spotted Sandpiper. So I've included a short video below. Oddly enough my relatively inexpensive point and shoot camera is good at taking videos, at least in my estimation. When we saw the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Philadelphia last year and I was taking a video another birder with a much more expensive camera said he thought mine was actually easier to use when taking videos. Who knows? In any case I've found it handy on those rare occasions when I wanted to take a video.

I think it's interesting to compare the visual technologies at work in this post. The most primitive of course, is drawing from life. Though the proportions are off in the Spotted Sandiper I love the sense of life in the drawings. I couldn't resist trying to capture the Canada Goose gosling as it tried to walk, all the while of course trying to avoid the accompanying goose poop, a reason that Canada Geese are not all that popular. The linocut, at least in the rough way I do it, is almost equally primitive. And then of course there is the much more modern video. They all have their place. But as you know it's the first two that are my favorites.

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