Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Finished Reduction Linocut

Falling, Fighting Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Two-block Reduction Linocut by Ken Januski.

This two-block reduction woodcut is finally finished. I'd guess it took about three months altogether, with many interruptions for allowing the ink to dry and other things. The main delay though was compositional decision-making.

I often see prints, in all media, that obviously take a lot of time to complete either due to a wealth of detail, technical complexity or something else. This type of print is generally unimpressive to me. As I've said many times in the years I've been writing this blog I'm not impressed by work in and of itself. That seems a very puritanical way of appreciating art.

But I'm sure another perspective is that time spent on compositional decision-making is just as off-putting to others. That may well be. And it may also be that many people looking at the print above won't realize how much time was spent deciding on colors, shapes, which colors on which shapes.

I've had the good luck to sell quite a few prints over the last month. They've been in a variety of styles, some more primitive, some more realistic and some more abstract. In general I'd say that the prints I've sold most of over the last years have been simple and direct, often almost primitive. When I package them off for shipment I feel some kinship with the people who buy them. And I wonder if I shouldn't stick to this more simple and direct style.

On the other hand I come from a tradition, particularly in my abstract work, of worrying over a painting or print until it is just right. Matisse said that every shape, every color, every brushstroke had its place. And it's something I'm very sympathetic to. One reason for this I think is that such work rewards viewing over the years. There is always something more to find and appreciate.

So when I do more compositionally complex prints that is the main motivation. I want a print that sticks with you.

The other thing that I think really delayed this print, and most compositionally complex prints, is that I know that I'm not making just one print. I'm making many. That is the nature of a print. You make more than one. So I figure if I'm going to be making 15, 20, 25, 30 prints I want them to be good enough that someone might want to buy them, even years after I've made them.

Solitary Sandpiper and Twelve-spotted Skimmer. Linocut by Ken Januski.

I was reminded of that when I sold the 2012 print pictured above. So much work goes into a print, into being careful to print them in such a way that they are as identical as possible, to avoid ink smudges that ruin the print. And yet most don't sell when made and just go into storage(a separate complication). But the reward is to be able to pull one out years afterwards, be reminded of how much you like it, and send it off to a buyer.

Because I know that I've already spent hours on the print, and that I'll be spending more hours printing an edition, I want to make sure that the composition is as good as I can make it before I print.

Thus the three months making the gnatcatcher print.

Since I've not made many prints this year I haven't written much about printmaking. But I have been thinking about it. One type of print that I often like is the monoprint. I like it because it is very spontaneous, and more like a painting than a print. But I've never made one. Why? Because I don't see the point of just making one. I might as well paint as print just one(thus monoprint). Still I very much like what many people do with monoprints.

In many of my prints I'm actually trying to create a multi-print monoprint. What I mean by that is that I hope to capture the feeling of spontaneity that a monoprint has. And yet still make an edition of it. I think that this gnatcatcher print may capture that better than any print I've yet done.

Still it is a far cry from my simple and direct prints. My guess is that I'll continue to find a place for both styles.

Dead Common Yellowthroat. Pencil and Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

We have one outdoor cat. But because I'm seriously allergic to them we've set a limit as to how many we can have inside. So our outdoor cat, who my wife adores and I have to say I like, causes far more problems with local birds than I'd like. In fact we've drastically cut down our bird feeding so that we don't attract birds that in turn might end up as prey for the cat. We do pretty well but recently he got our first backyard migrating warbler of the late summer. It's a very sad event. The best I can  do is to make a quick sketch of the bird, in this case a Common Yellowthroat. It is amazing what small, delicate creatures they are.

Pectoral Sandpiper. Watercolor by Ken Januski.

A slightly less delicate creature, though I can't say for sure since I didn't hold him in my hand, was this Pectoral Sandpiper. I had committed to bird and try to sketch shorebirds for World Shorebird Day. But I said I would do so nearby in locations that sometimes but certainly not always have shorebirds. Over four days I found none in very local locations and only a few further away at Heinz NWR. Those were too distant to sketch. So instead I did this watercolor of a Pectoral Sandpiper, seen and photographed at Morris Arboretum last fall.

I still greatly enjoy watercolor and it is no longer the sheer torture it was when I started. I like going back and forth between it and printmaking. But I think printmaking will remain my primary medium.

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