October 4, 2011

Time Flies

        You know the old saying, "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana."  I always enjoy that sort of linguistic shenanigans.  So two weeks ago, as I was heading upstairs to bed, I had a vision: time flies.  I pictured an antique entomological plate illustrating an array of clockwork insects…  Of course it took me ages to fall asleep that night as I kept jotting new ideas on the pad of paper by my bedside.  The next day I started in sketching.  What a blast!  I was having a wonderful time thinking up all different ways to incorporate clocks or time-telling or clockwork into steampunky bugs.  It amused me to make twelve of them, and although some are obviously modeled on various different sorts of insects, they each have a single set of wings, that being a characteristic of the true order of flies.  (Of course, these insects are not order diptera; they're in the order tempusfugita.)
        As it always does, real life interfered a bit, in the form of the usual family responsibilities, as well as a commission that I really had to knuckle down and spend some serious time on…  But whenever I got a chance I sketched more time flies.  When I had twelve I cut them all out and arranged them on a single sheet of paper, and put in the captions and numbers.  I guess the steampunk vibe would be more consistent with a Victorian style, but in fact there's no steam here.  What I was really picturing were the woodcuts illustrating some of the earlier volumes of natural history.  I enjoyed picturing some seventeenth century naturalist discovering these strange flies and sketching them as marvelous curiosities.  Were they glimpsed in some never-before explored meteor crater?  Or perhaps in the lost world of a jungle cave?  Or do they breed in the dry dust of long-abandoned bell-towers?
        Once I had arranged my final composition, I transferred the pencil sketch onto my rubber block and began to carve.  I carved out a few flies a day, figuring out the black and white as I went along.  I generally aim for a nice balance of white with black lines and black with white lines.  (As usual, I didn't do much in the way of texture.  I always admire block prints with lots of detailed gradations in texture, but although occasionally I make an effort to stretch in that direction, it just doesn't seem to be my natural style.)
        And finally I was able to ink it up, tweak the carving a bit more here and there, and print my run.  (Twelve, of course!)  I used cream paper for a suggestion of antiquity.  I matted up two of them, but ran out of cream colored mat board, so I guess I'll have to deal with that soon, since I need to be preparing for my next Open Studios show.  (Natick Artists Open Studios, Oct. 15 -16.  Come say hello if you're local!)
        I really enjoyed this entire block, sketching, carving, printing, and all.  Of course only time and a few shows will tell whether the art-buying public shares my sense of humor on this one, but I've been quite delighted with the whole thing.  (I added this design to my CafePress collection, too!)  It just goes to prove that time flies lead to having fun!

[Pictures: Time Flies, rubber block print by AEGN, 2011;
carving, pressing, and pulling the print, photos by Tom Grundy, 2011.  (Thanks, Tom!)]


  1. Such fun.

    Apologies to Thoreau: "Time is but the stream I go (fly) fishing in."