Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ending 2016 with Two Woodcuts(Or Keep Calm During Chaos)

Wood Ducks in Snow on Wissahickon Creek. Reduction Woodcut by Ken Januski.

It's always a bit of a struggle to keep politics, or other things that occasionally seem important, out of what is supposed to be a blog about art, birds and nature. I try to but Trump blasts away all my resolve due to his constant attack on decency, logic, reason, fairness and just about any other quality that used to be considered part of 'civilized' behavior. So I'll just say that I expect chaos both here and in the rest of the world, largely due to Trump. It may not be immediately evident, especially if you ignore his tweets(as everyone should), but it will eventually become so. That being the case I think the Wood Ducks portrayed above, seen in a blustery winter storm a number of springs ago, may serve as a good example. They look calm and serene amidst the chaos. Hopefully the world can do the same under whatever conditions he brings about.

I'd originally intended this small 4x6 woodcut as a season's greeting card that I tried to whip out in time for the holidays just as I was also finishing the woodcut below. But I soon let it got more complicated than I should have, especially at such a small scale. Still in the end I'm happy with how it worked out. It does have the misty, blustery feel of the actual day that I saw the Wood Ducks. It is printed on a good quality Japanese paper, Nishinouchi. The ink went on a bit more sparsely than I expected but in the end it didn't seem to be a problem. I was also impressed that I could keep adding new colors and the paper accepted them without problem.

I loved this scene when I first saw it a few years ago. This print, like many I've done, is based on a watercolor I did of the original scene. Little did I know as I did it that it might need to serve as a motto for the next 4, and God Forbid, 8 years: Remain Calm During Chaos!

Killdeer and Great Blue Heron in Snow at Manayunk Canal. Two-block Reduction Woodcut by Ken Januski.

I finished the Killdeer and Great Blue Heron woodcut a few weeks ago, just adding a few minor tweaks to the last version that I posted here. As usual with prints, especially reduction prints, I often find at the end that there is something I wish I'd done differently earlier on. With a painting I can just paint over it. But not in a print. So printmaking I think really forces you to live with simplification. You can only tweak so much. The final tweaking probably took two weeks and affected only about 10% of the entire area of the print. But I do think it made the print a bit livelier, both in terms of color and tone.

As anyone who has followed my work and this blog for very long knows I'm always trying to reconcile naturalism/realism and abstraction. To me this print goes quite a way in that direction, though here I think I'm a bit more realistic than in some of my other attempts. Others may view it differently.

I've been listening to a lot of music by Beethoven recently as well as reading two biographies and taking a number of audio courses. At one point Beethoven talks about writing for the future not the past. With wildlife art it's easy to get tricked into sticking with the past. But in the end I think it's a mistake. Art needs to remain lively and not just be an imitation of the past. That is my goal in my hybrid realistic/abstract work. For me it works and is endlessly fulfilling I hope that also proves true to people who view it.

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