Friday, May 13, 2011


Most of the time when I look back through early pieces I find them, well, cringe-worthy.  So it was a pleasant surprise to come across this one, which isn't half bad, I think.  At the time I did not realize this was not Wendell Berry's entire poem, but had been excerpted in the version I had been carrying around for years.  The piece was an assignment from the wonderful Ann Miller in her "Calligraphy & Letterforms" class at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, summer of 2004. [Ann still teaches the class, but only online. It's pricey (college credit) but an invaluable overview of the history of the artform.] The assignment was to use a curvelinear baseline with a quote of our choice.  It's monoline--probably various Speedball nibs, probably Sumi or Higgins Eternal ink.

That summer was a resurrection of sorts for me and glows in my memory.  I took the ferry across San Francisco Bay early each morning along with the self-described "worker bees" headed to the Financial District, had my ritual bagel and coffee on the boat, then walked a half-mile or so up Market Street to the classroom with my big portfolio and toolkit.  Virtually everyone else in the class was a twenty-something Graphic Design major who didn't quite "get" pen and ink, and couldn't wait to return to their digital lives, but I was enamored and obsessed.  

Here are the pieces of the poem I used in the piece:

Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold...
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years...Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade...Swear allegiance
to what is highest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.
copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry

Monday, May 9, 2011

Border Trouble

I recently learned the expression "border trouble", in this case referring not to immigration---nor to illuminated borders, like the one above---but rather to the sometimes-daunting obstacle between the idea for a piece and the point at which it begins to take shape.  Since I sometimes struggle mightily to move through that region, it helps me to think of it as just a transition, kind of a bothersome ordeal one has to go through to move into the pleasure on working on the piece once it starts to come to life, not to mention once it is finished.

It's school fundraiser season once again and I created this piece to raise some money for a good cause.  Artwork doesn't always do well in a silent auction but this was displayed nicely and went for a pretty penny!  The border outline came from the fabulous collection of the Graphics Fairy (you really need to go to that site, and bookmark it!);  I was able to take a little shortcut and print it onto tracing paper (rather than actually tracing it) and then transferred it to Arches 140 lb hot press with Armenian bole.

Because of the nature of the quote, I used more colors than I usually would have in the border.  The ink is Pelikan (with some powdered gum arabic added);  the rest of the design is gouache, pen, and 23K gold leaf.  I used a [left-handed] Brause 1.5mm nib;  the image is about 7.5" X 10.5".  I used my Logan Compact Mat Cutter (which has come in handy more times than I can count) to cut the mat, then popped it into a frame I picked up at Michael's half-price.  Ta-dah!


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