Clouds move. They may appear static, but they are really being driven by wind — a force which we cannot see. In my latest linocut, I play with repetition in the form of a diptych to think about cloud movement as an illustration of that that illusive wind.
Repetition and two images are the key
As I noted in a previous blog, a diptych is a pair of images that are created to be displayed together. Here I chose to stagger the same long cloud formation, where part of it is somewhat repeated in each image. I was not concerned with making this repetition apparent, so you can only see the actual repetition in a few places. What I wanted you to see is your eye perceiving separate frames, like Eadweard Muybridge’s famous running horse demonstration.
Altocumulus undulatus clouds result from wind shear — an abrupt speed or directional shift that signals a change in the weather. Where I live, a weather change is often brought about by violent storms, and some people link strong storms with blue green clouds. So I embraced my uniquely colored clouds as an illustration of how the world feels to me at times.
Things are unsettled, changes may be coming, and it is not clear if they will be disastrous, or merely different. All we can do is watch the clouds, and hang on.
Hanging on while looking for hope
I took a break from the studio recently to visit Asheville, North Carolina and the surrounding countryside. With the radio turned off and a ban on reading the New York Times on my phone, I was able to capture some images that I found hopeful…
Hope really is an action, not just an emotion. Continuing to be hopeful in the face of the alternatives takes perseverance.
Keep looking for hope, and if you find some, please share it. The world needs lots of hope.
In creating art, sometimes the materials dictate the direction of the work. In my latest linocut of rhythmic altocumulus undulatus clouds, my vision was for a glowing orange sky. I did not see the entire work as orange, but rather transitioning to some sort of blue. Herein lay the challenge and the realization that I was not in control.
One color determines the next
Even when I mixed my purply blue with some white, when I printed over my orange, I got a teal. But as I stared and pondered my perceived problem, I was reminded of the colors of my mother’s opal ring… colors that I enjoy.
So I decided to keep the teal green skies — as I had no choice in the matter. If Toulouse Lautrec can give people green faces, or Marc Chagall can make blue horses fly, why couldn’t I have green clouds?
Green clouds actually do exist
When I am printing blend rolls in my clouds, I am fastidious in preventing the yellows and the blues from mixing. This would usually result in a strange spring green. But my blueish green clouds are actually a real weather phenomenon. Meteorologists disagree about the causes of these green clouds. Some hypothesize that it is the result of sunlight refracting through hail in the clouds. Others suggest that it is the leading yellow sunlight shining on storm clouds. Sometimes green clouds are seen with severe weather, and sometimes not.
For now, I will embrace the opalescent teals of these clouds and print a few more layers to complete the work. It is spring in the midwestern United States, so I will also be listening for the sirens and looking for green clouds.
Saturated Reverie, the last cloud linocut for 2016, reexamines those puffy, cartoon “Simpson’s clouds” of a previous decade. These clouds represent the fluffy cotton balls we used in preschool to portray fair weather formations. In my clouds, only some of the formation is actually white or very light blue. The rest belies what is inside…
The real cumulus
These cumulus clouds are usually signs of fair weather. Their towering, flat-bottomed presence reminds me of ships, sailing in the teal blue of sunny skies. They are filled with ice crystals, water droplets, or both, and are low-lying, occurring at about 2,000 meters (3,300 feet.) The Continue reading “Why clouds anyway?”
My love affair with large linocuts has been tested this summer. In June, I began a 25 x 40 inch linocut of a large severe thunderstorm, fully intending to complete it in a month. Over the course of two months, I have used an engraving bit to texture every inch of this block — change occurring at a glacial pace — which is completely the opposite of a fast moving storm.
The past week has been all about clouds and heat. My visit to the Des Moines Arts Festival was positive, but as always it was punctuated by lots of heat and threatening clouds. Luckily clouds are inspiring to me. Here are some that lit our way as we drove east back to Indiana…
Back at home, I have been working hard on the plans for my large linocut inspired by another cloud scene. I worked to complete the drawing I had started before I left for Iowa — inspired in part by the lines and curves of a Georgia O’Keefe painting. One of the benefits to doing a full-sized study is you can see what your linocut might look like, and watch for mistakes.
I’m sometimes willing to start just from a pencil outline, and allow the design to develop as the printing progresses. I’m not willing to do this in the case of this large linocut. Perhaps it is the size of this linocut, along with the corresponding risks including the cost of the block (about $60), the paper (about $120), and my time that are giving me pause. I hung my completed tracing paper study on my hallway wall one evening, and the next morning had the terrible feeling that it was not right. Back to the drawing table…
After another entire day of work, I came up with another version which I think works better. I spent lots of time looking at the values needed to make this a good composition, as well as what patterns I wanted to highlight in the work. When the two are hung together, I felt the bottom study was much more successful.
I’m still deciding about the horizon line. In the actual photograph, the horizon is made up of deciduous trees. But perhaps a more Iowa-like horizon would provide a better complement to the curvaceous clouds. Now it is time to decide on the colors scheme for the clouds…
Even though I lost a few days of work with my do-over, I’m happy to realize my large mistakes on tracing paper — rather than after a month of carving and printing.
Where do you try to catch your mistakes? Any stories of linocut regret?
Clouds — my current fascination — are natural phenomena that are very difficult to sketch with any detail. They move, and your perspective changes each time you look up at the cloud and then down to your paper. My latest linocut planning makes use of a photograph I took with my Iphone and this artist’s secret tool — tracing paper.
I am suddenly longing to get back to carving and printing — as I have been consumed with gathering new imagery, and getting the work I have completed ready for new homes.
We recently escaped to Sleeping Bear Dunes in northern Michigan as a celebration of my husband’s milestone birthday. An unseasonable cold front had settled over the Midwest, so we were greeted with light snow, temperatures in the 40s and a furious wind. This gave us very atmospheric conditions to hike the dunes and the springtime woods, and provided me with lots of moving cloud pictures for inspiration. Here are some favorites…
The wind was blowing so hard — sometimes taking sand with it — that all I could do was point my Iphone in the direction of the clouds and push the volume buttons. We did take a moment to snap a quick self-portrait. Note the fleece headband — in May!
Back from our weekend, I have been madly framing and preparing to take my work to the Broad Ripple Art Fair at the Indianapolis Art Center. One of the greatest challenges — undertaken by my dear husband — was to create a way to transport all of my work and equipment in our RAV4. Here is his solution, complete with clips that hold the metal display panels together that he 3-D printed himself. Quite a mensch!
And yes, if you thought the RAV4 was riding a bit low despite being on an angled driveway, you would be correct. Always an adventure…
Vexing. This an apt description of the weather in my part of the world. Wide swings in temperature, plus punishing storms make for unpredictable living. Two weeks ago I wrote about similar trials in layering inks. After giving the linocut an entire week to dry, I soldiered on, armed with metallic inks.
I first printed a gold layer, which faded as it approached the horizon, over the patchy purple. Thankfully metallic inks are very opaque and tend to cover a multitude of difficulties. Another deeper blue went on the clouds, which did not share the inking problems. But I was concerned that the clouds might not tolerate too many more layers… Continue reading “The completion of a temperamental linocut”
Perspective in art is difficult. My early lessons came from sketching the interior of the Indiana University Art Museum, designed by famed architect, I.M. Pei. There are few right angles to be found except between the walls and the floor. So when I began my exploration of nature patterns and topographies, I was delighted to find that I could do this without using traditional perspectives.
With some of my topographies, like Tranquil Terraces Dawning, I immersed the viewer in the patterns, which give a sort of roller coaster feeling of being about to plunge down into the rice paddies. But with clouds, this makes less sense…
The reality is that sometimes, what you are exploring is interesting only in relation to something else. With clouds, your eye really needs some cues if you are to understand the scale and the vastness of each formation. You need a horizon. I slipped a horizon into my second linocut, Highway Caprice. Now with my latest linocut, I’m back to horizons again.
I have printed two layers of ink here, and you can see where the horizon line might be, but all will be revealed only after I do some carving and lay down some darker inks. The image for this linocut was captured east of where I live, after a tremendous storm over early spring fields. More will be revealed soon…