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Self-Portrait #17: block print after Vanessa Bell


I’ve been wanting to do some printing, and since Vanessa Bell, my current artist reference in “100 Self Portraits”, did woodcuts as illustrations for many of her sister Virginia Woolf’s books, I had the perfect excuse.  I used one of the prints that I embellished with paint and embroidery for “Straw Hat”, but here’s the original print in two versions with the print from Bell that I used as a reference.


Of course, I can never leave well enough alone.  So I painted, embroidered, and collaged on some of the prints I made.


I also have another embroidery idea that I haven’t had time to do yet.  It’s on the list.

You can see all of the self-portraits in this series here.


bull comp

Your own
image scattered
the points shine like a star
caught in the branches of a tree

I only had to add a few lines to this monoprint/drip painting.

The poem uses the words from the secret keeper’s writing prompt this week.

I have to admit to stealing the word “constellated” from a Charles Olson poem.  Over all, I’m not that fond of his work, but there are words, sentences, and phrases that always stand out.

Degas: A Strange Beauty Indeed

ballerina close up s

My dentist’s office is just a few blocks from the Museum of Modern Art, so after my appointment yesterday I spent some time there before I went home.  I wanted to see the Dada exhibit, and it was fun, but the Degas exhibit overshadowed and overwhelmed it.

monotype comp 1

The exhibit explored Degas’ process, starting with his extensive use of monotype printing.  He was able to get quite a lot of detail using copper plates.

monoprint celluloid s

He also did some prints using celluloid, the photography film of the day.

dancer comp

But then he started adding color to his monoprints with both pastel and watercolor.  Wow!  It’s impossible to fully control this type of printing, so maybe that’s the secret to the other-worldliness of so many of his pastel works.

drawing comp

The exhibit then went on to talking about how all this work influenced his drawing and painting.  This is a good lesson for all of us perfectionists.

sketchbook s

A page from a sketchbook shows Degas exploring.

dancers comp 2

And here’s a look at how a sketch became a painting.

monotype landscape color oil s

My favorite part of this show was the room of landscapes though.  Here Degas used oil paints when printing, in colors this time.

landscape w pastel comp

He used pastels over the printing on some of these as well.

accident comp

The labeling for this exhibit was also excellent.  It’s only there a few more weeks, but if you happen to be in NYC…be prepared for the crowds, but highly recommended.

degas quote

Grid and a Quilt

Being totally uninspired I made a grid out of all the colors in my watercolor box. Being somewhat befuddled today I lost track of where I was placing the colors (I was trying to keep them in order of the paintbox) and wound up just putting them where they looked good. I made some color copies of it with some different effects and put them down on a larger piece of paper. This is the closest I’ll ever get to digital art. I am rather pleased with the look of it. 

This was the original painted grid. I’m thinking of doing something further, maybe some hieroglyphics over it? 

This World Will Still

leaf print 2s

The light is gone has rippled dark
wide open now it radiates
hidden riddles guide our way

Decayed in blood our cells depart
with flames turned brown by endless wait
for whispered sleep by phantom’s shade

The flood forgets to fill the ark
all sense of form evaporates
perspective bends begins to fade

And if we drown combine dissolve
this world will still ferment revolve


Jane Dougherty’s challenge this week had a few parts.  First, the photo, above; then the form, trilonnet; and then the beginning words “the light is gone”.

leaf print 1s

Once again, I tried some monoprints, this time over an old piece of digital art with leaves that I printed out a few times.  I’m still not sure what I’m trying to do with this technique, so I’m also not sure what I think about the results.  They do seem to suit the theme though.

leaf paint print s

The one above I didn’t like at all, so I painted on top of the printing.  I may end up cutting it up for a collage.


printed geese 2s

winter wanes
the year quickens
clouds sparkle the sea
awakening stories
following imprinted light
profound murmurings of feathers
caravan reaching for horizons

questing spirits shifted beyond form
aerial synchronicity
opening splintered paths
gathered into song
returned to the earth
wayfarers all
nourished by

printed geese 1s

Claudia McGill has been doing some monoprints, which reminded me I wanted to try some myself…it’s been a long time.  You may remember my crow series, which actually I never finished; there are still some printed pieces I haven’t collaged or stitched on yet.

For the snow geese I had the idea to print out some of my photos from the beach and make images on top of them.  These are the two I liked best…I wasn’t that happy with the results.  Although I like the idea.  What happened wasn’t what I had in mind, but if I had less in mind to start, it could go somewhere interesting.

snow geese

Above is the inspiration image, from Jane Dougherty’s poetry challenge this week, which also included the words:  Aerial, profound, murmur, splintering, spark

Snow goose is the animal totem for the Earth Renewal Moon of the winter solstice on the Native American Medicine wheel.  Nina may be interested in the fact that the birch tree is also associated with the Earth Renewal Moon, as well as the Turtle Clan.

These beautiful birds appear in stories and myths from many cultures.


Fierce Fossils

predator rorschach s

life has been troubled
jaws and sharp teeth
collected in death

An hourglass poem, from Jane Dougherty’s challenge this week.

As usual, I have explanations for both the art and the words.

I was looking for a collage I thought I had started in my “ideas” bin, which is full of things I thought about and did a little bit to start (so I didn’t forget about the idea), with the intent to go back and complete them at some future date.  It’s full, needless to say, as I have many more thoughts than I have time to realize them.

I didn’t find the collage, but I found about 15 “Rorschachs” that I’ve been doing for awhile with leftover paint.  Most of them need a lot of fleshing out–I was mostly thinking of stitching over them–but this one stood out for me as being complete in itself.  Found Art, really, as all I did was drip the leftover colors onto the paper and fold it to see what would happen.  Looks like a predator to me…of course, you may see something different…

Since the art was “found”, I constructed the poem in a “found” method I’ve used before.  I looked for an article on predators online, pulled out words and phrases I liked, and mashed them together in the syllable sequence Jane suggested.  The article I used (“What was Earth’s first predator and when did it live?” by Colin Barras) was quite interesting, so I also learned a bit while I was borrowing words.  You can read it here.

There’s a Crow Flying (#4)

crow flying #4s

I feel like that black crow
In a blue sky

–Joni Mitchell

crow flying #4 close up s

It’s been almost a year since I finished the third one in this group.  You could say Time flies too…

I’ve been working on this on and off for awhile, but seeing that it’s printoctober as well as inktober and drawlloween this month, it’s appropriate that I finally completed stitching the trees.  Originally I did quite a few monoprints from one base that I kept adding colors to, all with a crow series in mind.  I think there are still a few left in my partly-started ideas bin as well.

You can see the rest of the series here.

Chelsea: The Famous (or at least somewhat well-known)

Bearden 1s

One of the main reasons for my personal gallery crawl on Saturday was to see “Works on Paper” at the Flomenhaft Gallery.  They represent Miriam Schapiro, so I’ve been there before, and their shows always reward my time.  And for me, any show containing master collage artist Romare Bearden is worth seeing.  I had not seen this piece before, a combination of lithograph and collage.  The delicately drawn border is a wonderful contrast to the bold image.

bearden detail 1s

Also in the show were a number of prints by Roger Shimamura.  A Japanese-American who was interned as a child with his family in Idaho after Pearl Harbor, he often explores Asian stereotypes and racism using combinations of traditional and pop imagery.

marilyn s

I was especially drawn to these simple architectural prints.

architecture comp

In anticipation of the Whitney retrospective opening soon, the Paul Kasmin Gallery is showing a group of large works by Frank Stella.  This one provoked a “Wow”.

stella mandala s

I don’t like everything he has done over his long career, but I admire Stella for not repeating himself:  he is still exploring different ways to make art.  I had not seen any of these delicate silver pieces before.  I love the shadows it makes too.

siver swirls s

This many-layered graffiti piece is huge.  Lots of energy.

stella sculpture comp

My daughter loves Chuck Close, but I’ve always been kind of lukewarm about him.  He’s a photorealist, who employs grids to produce his huge portraits.  Sometimes the grids are more visible than others, and in these works at Pace Gallery they are the main ingredient.  Using only cyan, magenta, and yellow pigments, he’s both broken down and layered the colors to produce a really wonderful and exploratory series of portraits.  Yes, I think this technique will appear at some point in my own self portrait series as well.

chuck close comp

Billy Childish is a cult art figure and musician.  I only recently discovered the movement he founded, Stuckism, through a post on The Remodern Review.    So I read through their pages of manifestos…they are rejecting abstraction, and promoting figurative and spiritual art…so many lists of accepted and not accepted ways of doing art (painting is really the only correct medium it seems), so much anti- this and that.  They say they promote amateurism and reject The Art World.  So why the long list of do’s and don’ts?  Everything and anything should be “do” in that case.  And why is Childish showing his paintings at a big Art World gallery like Lehmann Maupin?

childish comp

I guess I was set up to be disappointed, and I was.  The earlier work of Childish I had seen online was colorful and expressive; you could clearly see the line to the influence of Edvard Munch and Van Gogh.  The influence is still kind of there in these paintings, but very diluted.  I personally would be unhappy to have done the figurative and still life work he is showing.  Perhaps the problem is scale; these small photos of the work look much much better than the actual (very) large paintings.  In person they look sloppy, like the artist didn’t really care.

chidish trees 1s

I liked the tree paintings, but again they look much better in a small photo.  All in all, this looks like something Childish slapped together because his important gallery in NYC wanted a show.

In a few days (or maybe next week) I’ll talk about some of the not-so-famous work that I really liked or found interesting.

Spotted Woman

spotted woman close up s

I tried to paint on some paper I had that turned out to have a non-porous surface…since it wouldn’t absorb the paint, I took rice paper and made a monoprint.  Black eyes! among other things.  So I used pen and ink and oil crayons to add details.

spotted woman s

Yes, I’m still working on cat paintings, and this is the leftover paint from the jaguar, hence the catwoman feel.  I like the slightly out-of-control effect of monoprints.  I’m sure there will be more, maybe with a bit more actual intent to start with.