December 13, 2011

Carving Water

        Water is always tricky to portray in art, but at least paints, with their liquid texture, tranparancy, and ability to blend, seem like a natural medium for trying to capture water.  But relief block printing?  How do you portray something totally liquid and transparent by carving something totally hard and opaque?  My two most recent prints, which I finished carving during my last two shows, were (entirely by coincidence) both water scenes.  I tried slightly different techniques on each, and it got me
curious to look around for some different examples of water portrayed in block prints.  As for mine, I don't think either is entirely successful, although I'm rather taken with the water in the Cormorant block, mostly just because it's a bit different from anything I've done before so it seems more interesting.
        So, here's a pretty straightforward depiction of a bay by Louis Moreau in 1910.  It's got lines in a wavy pattern, with just a bit more black to indicate dark reflections.  It looks watery enough, but it's very stylized.
        By contrast, here's a piece with remarkably photorealistic water.  Indeed, it's based on a photo of nothing but waves.  When the water is all there is in the entire piece, the artist (Vija Celmins) really has to get those details right because the viewer doesn't get any other visual cues.  This piece is all about copying those organic shapes exactly from a snapshot of nature.

        Here's some very serene water, depicted by… nothing.  For the most part the water isn't carved at all (or is carved entirely away, depending how you think about it), but you know it's there because of the scenery.  The absence of any wave lines gives the scene a feeling of deep peace.
        And here's the opposite: raging water… but once again pretty stylized.  I like the few white circles in amongst the lines that make up the waves.  This is done by Lynd Ward from one of his graphic novels.

        In terms of a really different technique, here's a cool example of one of the few ways in which hard wood comes out with a watery advantage.  This artist (Merlyn Chesterman) has used the grain of the wood for the texture of waves.  I love it!  It must be fun to search for wood with the right sort of grain lines, and then build the scene out of the grain that nature gives you.
        Lots of other pieces I've shown in other posts feature water, as do lots more of my own pieces.  After all, we do live in a watery world so water is bound to show up in a lot of art.  Keep your eyes open for all the different techniques printmakers use in the quest for the wateriest water!

[Pictures:  Cormorants at the Old Pier, rubber block print by AEGN, 2011;
A Quiet Place on the Journey, rubber block print by AEGN, 2011;
Nice (Promenade des anglais), woodcut by Louis Moreau, 1910 (image from Pierre Alechinsky);
Ocean Surface Woodcut 1992, woodcut by Vija Celmins, 1992 (image from the National Galleries of Scotland);
Landscape, woodcut by Sigge Bergstrom, 1909;
Illustration from God's Man, woodcut by Lynd Ward, 1929;
Life Rock, Bear Rock, God's Finger, woodcut by Merlyn Chesterman (visit her web site here.);
Piping Plover, rubber block print by AEGN, 2008 (sold out).]

1 comment:

foottothefire said...

Carved/carving water haunts me
thank you for this