January 24, 2014


        Every year at the beginning of January when I dump out my bouquets of evergreens, pine cones, and red berries, I fill the vases with the cold, bare sticks of forsythia.  A few weeks later, in the dull and frigid tail of January when it seems that all there is to look forward to is the dull and frigid expanse of February, I suddenly have a sunny, yellow promise of spring.  First one bright, slender bud springs open, then another, and then the stems are covered with blooms, petals flung open in graceful exuberance.  Forsythia flowers aren’t really a particularly interesting form, nor do they have any pattern or texture.  All they have is that happy yellow.  So yeah, I know I always say how much I like black and white, but with forsythia, it’s gotta be yellow.
        Maybe you don’t have forsythia blooming in your home right now, so as usual: relief block printing to the rescue!  If you’re looking for 
color wood block prints of flowers, the Japanese printmakers are the obvious first stop.  Like my January forsythia, these flaunt their yellow in an essentially colorless space; they provide all the color in the world.  The second piece here, by contrast, places the flowers inside in a vase, just as mine actually are, but without such a wintry feeling.  I’m not sure what technique Kirchmeier used - multiple blocks, or perhaps one block with multiple colors plus a black-inked key block.  Shodo and Keinen used the traditional Japanese printmaking techniques of multiple blocks with multiple colors on each, inked with watercolor washes.

        I hope these flowers bring you a smile today!

[Pictures: Forsythia, color woodblock by Kawarazaki Shodo, mid-1950’s (Image from The Hanga Gallery);
Forsythia 2, color woodblock by Ruth Kirchmeier, 2009 (Image from Ruth Kirchmeier);
Yellow Forsythia, Long-tailed Tit, color woodblock by Imao Keinen (carved by Tanaka Jirokichi), 1891 (Image from Davidson Galleries).]


Pax said...

I fondly remember a pre-school art project of pasting small twists of yellow crepe paper to a brown branch crayoned on a large page. We do crave color. Today the world outside my window is white and black and grey and very cold. Thanks for this promise of spring-to-come.

Jil Casey said...

I really like Ruth Kirchmeier's work, thanks for sharing.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

I hadn't known Kirchmeier until I went looking for block prints of forsythia, and I was really pleased to discover her work.
Thanks for commenting, Jil!