Friday, September 26, 2014

Carving Catbirds and Walnuts

Gray Catbird with Walnuts. Early Woodcut Proof by Ken Januski.

Just as I enjoyed returning to watercolor a few weeks ago I've also enjoyed returning to carving woodblocks over the last two days. I guess it keeps things fresh. In any case above is step two in the early stages of a multi-block woodcut. I'm sure it will be multi-block because I want to use a separate block to print the gray of the bird, the rust of his undertail coverts and the green of the walnuts.

I was also looking through some of my older woodcuts and realize that I do like some of the ones that have outlines around the subject, as in the Piping Plovers. I realize that most of my newer prints are moving away from what might be called a recognizable scene toward something more graphic, linear and perhaps abstract. That's fine. I've realized that by keeping the outlines fairly accurate I can feel that I've been true to the bird without getting bogged down in detail. Then I can be much freer in other ways, perhaps color or texture or composition.

Gray Catbird, House Sparrow, et. al. Field Sketches  by Ken Januski.

I happened upon a squawking Gray Catbird a couple of days ago along the Wisshickon. He was feeding as far as I could tell on some broken walnut husks. I loved his strong pose and open bill. I also liked the fact that the pose showed how small his wings are, something that always surprises me since they are fairly large birds. In any case this seemed like a prototypical pose and I tried to capture it immediately after seeing it in the sketch above.

Gray Catbird with Walnuts. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski

When I got home I decided to do a watercolor sketch based on the field sketch but also incorporating information from my photos of Gray Catbirds. The end result is the woodcut above. So far I'm quite pleased with how it's worked out. More than anything it has a good sense of the pose of the catbird as he squawked out his displeasure with my intrusion. The sketch above give some sense of how I expect the colors to develop. The smudge in the upper left by the way is a very blobby Northern Flicker where I just used too much water. I ignored him as I sketched the Gray Catbird.

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