Sunday, August 7, 2016

Lino In Progress; Odds and Ends

Falling, Fighting Gnatcatchers. Linocut. Early proof by Ken Januski.

A few months ago Jerene and I had the oddest experience while walking along Forbidden Drive in the Wissahickon Valley in Philadelphia. A large grayish object came floating down in front of us, somewhat like a Sycamore leaf but of the wrong color. When it hit the ground it exploded into a flurry of blue/gray, black and white. It turned out to be two fighting Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, more or less locked together as they fell.

Soon after I got home I did the sumi brush pen sketch below, completely from memory because there was no way in the world to have gotten a photo. It all happened too quickly. But I did think that I'd like to make a print of it. So at top is a fairly early proof of a two block linocut. I'm running out of wood blocks to carve so decided to try this old piece of mounted lino.

Currently I'm debating whether or not to add another color or two to the color block. Most likely I'll add at least one more color.

Fighting, Falling Gnatcactchers. Sumi Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I get varying responses to my work. Some people love the more realistic watercolors, as in the Blue Grosbeak below. But others turn their noses up at this type of work and like the more abstract work of the newest Gnatcatcher print. I've come to the firm conclusion that I'm best working abstractly. My work is I think somewhat personal when I work like that. With watercolors I could look like many other painters, just not as good.

Blue Grosbeak at Higbee Beach. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

But I still admire the way some people can use watercolor, and by 'some' I should say I definitely do not mean the color within the line school of very deadly watercolor. I've never understood that claustrophobic way of working. Watercolor begs to be used freely, even if that is the most difficult way to use it. In any case I always learn something when I work in watercolor, about the bird portrayed, about the use of watercolor, or in this case about how difficult it is to render grasses in a free, yet believable way. It's a bit like learning to dive. I try a new watercolor, perhaps am happy with it, then do a big belly flop. It can be a painful way to learn. But I keep coming back. Still I think I'll never develop the individuality I have in my prints in watercolor.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Sumi Brush Pen Memory Sketch by Ken Januski.

This is a very lucky time of year for people, at least people in the Eastern US, because during much of July and probably all of August and if you're lucky much of September as well, you can have Ruby-throated Hummingbirds as daily visitors. For all my years of watching them I've come to the conclusion that the best way to portray them is not from a field sketch and not from photos. Instead I stare at them for a number of minutes, try to memorize what I see, and then put it down on paper.

Inevitably I realize how much I have forgotten in the five seconds it takes to switch from looking to drawing. Still I keep trying and I keep learning. Hopefully I'll have some drawings I'm happy with before they depart in September or so.

Recently a friend of mine, who is both an accomplished artist and a lover of music posted a note about the recently deceased composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. It included a link to one of his works: Concerto for Birds and Orchestra. It is almost 20 minutes long but well worth listening to. It reminds me of how ambitious 'wildlife art' can be if it wants to. It can be aware of art of the century in which it is created, i.e. 21st not 19th or earlier, and yet still be true to and appreciative of the 'wildlife' itself. I realize that not everyone will enjoy this. But as with many things it seems criminal not to at least alert people to the existence of such strong pieces of art.

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