April 12, 2011

Mary Azarian's Wood Block Prints

        Mary Azarian is the author and illustrator of two of the block print alphabet books I've been featuring, but I wanted to give her her own post, too.  She's probably best known for her technique of hand coloring her woodcut prints with watercolor, as in The Gardener's Alphabet, and these pieces are indeed beautiful, often very bright and cheerful.  On the other hand, I always
favor woodcuts in straight black and white for their crispness, drama, and look of hand-carving.  After all, while I certainly do love bright color, when color is what you want, any sort of painting will do as well.  I feel that what relief printing does best is shown most clearly without the addition of overpainting.  Be that as it may, Azarian does beautiful work both with and without color.
        Azarian is known for her lovely illustrations of over 50 books.  Her most famous of these is Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, which won her the Caldecott Award in 1999.  The pictures I've posted here all come from The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, which is sort of a compilation album.  Much of Azarian's work focuses on rural themes, because she's lived pretty much her entire life on farms and clearly has a deep love of farming, all sorts of gardening, and life out in the country.  My favorites of her pieces tend to be the ones of landscapes and things, rather than people or animals.  I love that the detail and various interesting textures are balanced with a style that's not so slick and smooth that it loses its hand-carved look.
         Azarian has a nice web site with biographical information, photos of her printing press and working process, and lots more of her art.  Check it out.  (You can buy original work there, too.  I'm awfully tempted, myself!)

[Pictures: Summer Kitchen, woodcut by Mary Azarian;
Chill Morning, woodcut with watercolor by M Azarian;
Blossom Bough, woodcut by M Azarian;
Preserving Summer, woodcut by M Azarian;  (all pictures are from The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, published by David R. Godine, 2000.)]


Penny Watson said...

I love her! I have a beautiful framed print of a woman in a garden, which I adore. It reminds me of our time in Vermont.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Oooh, lucky you! =)

Vermontgal said...

I have the entire alphabet, each signed by Mary. Large prints, originally one set for each schoolhouse in Vermont.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Oh, no fair gloating - I'm so envious! ;)