Friday, June 12, 2015

Forgotten Warbler, Another Snake, Completed Woodcut and a Very Influential Artist

Louisiana Waterthrush and Snake. Pencil and Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

As I wrote about the local breeding warblers in my last post I expected that I probably would forget to mention one or two. Sure enough I forgot the one that breeds within a mile of our house: the Louisiana Waterthrush. It's hard to believe I forgot that one. So above is a quick pencil and watercolor sketch of one, seen with an as yet unidentified snake, in a tributary of the Wissahickon at Morris Arboretum. I saw it and another one there this May. They've been somewhat sparse, at least for me, in the Wissahickon this year so I need to make a point of looking for them before they leave.

'Black' Squirrel, Palm Warbler and Mourning Cloak. Final Edition of Two Block Reduction Woodcut by Ken Januski.

More important news is that I've finally finished the 4x6 inch two block reduction woodcut of the 'Black' Squirrel, Palm Warbler and Mourning Cloak seen at the very beginning of migration season in early April 2015. This photo is a bit off in that the blue is not that bright. I sometimes use more than one dark color in my prints and when I do you can bet that they will not photograph well. In this instance my camera insisted in seeing a brighter blue than is actually on the print.

I'm happy with this print, though of course there are some things I'd prefer had worked a bit better. But with a complex print like this that sentiment is inevitable. For me the most exciting thing is that I have transmuted something actually experienced into art. That is one great differentiating factor between my work and much wildlife art, or even contemporary art in general. I'm not interested in making an imitation photo,  nor in portraying any existential angst against the state, the unfairness of life, etc., etc. There's much to enjoy in life, particularly outside in the natural world, and I'd like to capture that experience in some way. I don't care about the details of scientific illustration. I care about the thrill of being outside.

And speaking of that I was sad to learn, as were many others, that John Busby had died. I probably wouldn't have changed from an abstract artist to a bird artist if it weren't for him. Or I would have withered on the vine, in the dull and lifeless world of wildlife art as I knew it. It was only in reading and looking at his book Drawing Birds that I saw wildlife art that showed some sense of the excitement of outdoor experiences and also had some sense of art rather than illustration. If you've never read this book, and you have any interest at all in wildlife art or bird art, I'd recommend it. Though he's had an impact on me I think that his impact on artists in Europe and in England in particular is probably hard to overestimate.

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