February 3, 2017

Year of the Rooster

        Happy Year of the Fire Rooster!  Actually, the animal of the year is a word that means either rooster or chicken, so they’re equally good symbols.  In honor of which, today I’ve collected a nice selection of relief block printed fowl.  I always enjoy seeing the different ways different artists choose to depict the same thing.  You can really see how each artist’s style and choices contribute to different pieces.
        I’ll start with my own, in which I was most interested in playing with patterns.  To me the interesting thing about chickens is the remarkable array of patterns in their feathers, and how they’re repeated and varied.  I was also fooling around with borders: the chicken’s border is an “egg and dart” design, which I thought terribly clever.  (Apparently I’m easily amused!)
        Jacques Hnizdovsky is the king of relief block printed patterns and he’s done many birds of all sorts with intricately geometric feathers.  But interestingly, his rooster is more about the the sweep of feathers than their design.  His rooster is quite simple and bold, and very sleek.  I'd even go with "regal."
        Hugh Ribbans was also clearly playing with pattern in his hen.  The various areas of feathers are quite stylized, with individual feathers outlined in some areas, and filler patterns in others.  I like how active this hen looks, head down and scurrying, unlike the more static creatures it’s so much easier to show.
        Thomas Bewick’s chickens are illustrating a fable, so they come with their whole story: barnyard, dunghill, jewel and all.  There are lots of little details, including the broken pipe on the dunghill, and the fences and outbuildings of the farm.  That makes a nice transition to my last fowl, which carries its farm inside it.  This is definitely a different, interesting take on the patterns that make up the feathers.  I like the way the grain looks feathery at the bottom and the sky morphs up into the tail, and the diagonals of the furrowed field are a little reminiscent of wing feathers.
        Chickens are one of the most common and popular creatures for artists, so there were certainly plenty more I could have chosen, but I tried not to get carried away.  At any rate, I hope these provide plenty of inspiration.

[Images: Chanticleer, rubber block print by AEGN, 2009;
Hen and Chicks, rubber block print by AEGN, 2009;
Cock, woodcut by Jacques Hnizdovsky, 1972;
Little Hen, linocut by Hugh Ribbans (Image from hughribbans.com);
The Cock and the Jewel, wood block print by Thomas Bewick from The Fables of AEsop, 1885 (Image from Internet Archive and University of California, Victorian Web);
Bantam Chicken, linocut by Kelly Shields (Image from her Etsy Shop RedFlowerLetterpress).]

1 comment:

  1. So interesting--thank you. It reminded me of a Washington Post article from 2009 or so about the great variety of chickens and roosters based on their feather colors and arrangements. So many beautiful details in our world if we look and have people writing like you!

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