Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Thrilling Sketchbook, The Hand-colored Linocut

Acadian Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, Field Sketches with Watercolor by Ken Januski.

You might think that after a number of years of making art, abstract, realistic, or otherwise that it would be easy to get jaded. In some cases that is true. I certainly did with all the IMPORTANT ART that started to be shown around the 1980s. In fact it was hard to go to a gallery and find art that wasn't important. All that important art all over the place. Little matter that is was self-declared IMPORTANT ART. If I had gotten a gallery show at that time, when I was still doing abstract art, I would have tried to have it called UNIMPORTANT ART.  Sad to say the art world has only come to take itself more seriously in the years since then, though the huge sums that are used to speculate in art these days makes it easy to keep the illusion up.

But I digress............. Even though it is possible to get jaded in art, or any other field, there is one thing that is most likely to bring back the thrill of art to me: someone's sketchbook. It used to be the sketchbook of people like Rembrandt, Degas, etc. But since I've turned to art based on birds it is more likely the field sketchbooks of numerous bird artists. Of course most of the most famous and best-selling bird artists don't seem to do sketching in the field. And it shows. But for those artists that do I can't find anything more exciting. Whether it is the work of a known or unknown artist I find it endlessly rewarding and exciting to see the field work of accomplished naturalistic artists. And the best ones, or at least the ones that move me the most, seem to combine sketches with watercolor.

Given all that you'd think I'd be doing that sort of exciting fieldwork myself. Well it's not that I haven't tried. Unfortunately I generally fail miserably. So it's with great pleasure that I show the two pages from a small Moleskine sketchbook above. The Acadian Flycatcher, Wood Thrush and Red-eyed Vireo were all seen and sketched in Philadelphia over the last three days. This afternoon I added watercolor to them in the studio.  As usual there are a few things that aren't completely accurate about the portrayals. And I could go back, look at reference photos, and correct them. But that I can do in new versions. With these I just wanted to leave them as I sketched them. I'm happy to say that for the first time I excited about my own hand-colored field sketches!

Female American Kestrel with Dead American Robin. Hand-colored Linocut by Ken Januski.

And speaking of hand-coloring I also completed the linocut of the female American Kestrel eating a freshly killed American Robin with watercolor yesterday. 16 of the prints were left as black prints on white paper. But I wanted to experiment with adding watercolor to 8 of them. Most of the motivation for this was due to the subtle coloring of the kestrel. It is something best captured in watercolor. But I didn't want to do a finicky version in watercolor alone. So hand-coloring a print seemed like a good idea.

After you work in the limitations of printmaking it's shocking to all of a sudden be able to use the freedom of painting in a print. So here no print is identical. They are very similar but the brushwork and color in the foreground for instance is slightly different from print to print. That also is very exciting. Both prints are now for sale on Etsy.

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