August 10, 2022

Summer Days

         It seems like every time we have winter snow, I post a collection of block-printed winter snow scenes - but do I ever post a collection of summer scenes?  No I do not, but today that changes.  In fact, I gathered enough summer scenes (and I’m busy enough) that I’m going to split into two posts, the better to enjoy the summer bounty.
        I’m starting with the one that is not only a bit different from my usual taste, but also an unusual format.  It’s actually a two-sided piece on which the other side is “Winter Night.”  But I like this “Summer Day” much better.  It looks to be three blocks with interesting overlapping areas, plus a sort of ribbon of gold along the bottom, which may be part of binding the two sides together.  In any 
case, I particularly like the summery color choice, which looks quite sultry, and although it’s a bit abstract, it’s clear that there are trees and bushes, grass, sunshine and shade.
        Second is a hot late-afternoon streetscape by Asa Cheffetz, who also has a number of summer country scenes that really tempted me today.  I’m sure I’ll post them another time, but for now I thought I’d embrace the variety of showing summer in a town.  No one’s out in this scene, so I imagine they’re all inside, looking for a bit of relief from the blazing sun.  I love the three-way 
contrast between black shadows, bright sunlight, and textured buildings.
        Our third piece would definitely be my choice for a summer vacation spot (if I actually ever went on summer vacations any more, heh).  Beautiful scenery, cool trees and cool water, secluded porch on which to overlook it all…  This piece is from a series of four, depicting the garden in each season, and it’s everything to love about Japanese wood block prints: the composition, the colors, the exquisite detail.  Beautiful.
        I’ll close out today with people dressed for the season.  In some ways summer seems to be the “unmarked” season in art.  If you see snow, it’s winter, colored leaves for autumn, flowering trees for spring; but summer seems to be the season of the absence of other seasonal cues.  The one thing that really does mark summer is people bathing, or in swimsuits, or people having picnics.  So here’s a mother dressed for summer, with two children undressed for summer, on a bench in a lush garden growing like a jungle.  It feels almost tropical, and certainly ready for a picnic.
        I love summer, but frankly I’m only too happy that our recent hot spell is over.  I’ve had a bit more than enough of truly summery weather.  (Now if only we could get some more rain.)  But I never get tired of these summer block prints.


[Pictures: Summer Day, color linocut by Ruth Fine, 1994 (Image from University of Wisconsin-Madison);

Summer Sun (Portsmouth, N.H.), wood engraving by Asa Cheffestz, 1928 (Image from The Clark Museum);

Garden in Summer, color woodblock print by Hiroshi Yoshida, 1933 (Image from Moku-Hanga.org);

Summer, wood engraving by Cecil Buller, c. 1926 (Image from Cleveland Museum of Art).]

August 5, 2022

Harding's Bird Alphabet

         It’s been a while since I featured an artist with a relief-print alphabet, so today I present Angela Harding (U.K., b. 1960) whose block prints focus on the plants and animals of the British countryside.  She has done an alphabet of wood engravings of birds (although technically I can find only 22 of them!)  It looks like most of these birds are part of the British landscape, although she’s had to include a few others to complete the alphabet.
        Her style is not about realism, although the birds certainly include identifiable details.  They’re influenced by a mid-20th-century aesthetic that combines a certain amount of geometry, roughly carved texture, and stylization of composition.  My favorite is the kingfisher.  I like everything about this one: the patterns of the bird’s feathers, the contrast with the sky and 
water, the leaves in the foreground and the clouds in the background…
        Next up, the blackbird.  This works well because the simple black shape pops against the background, without too much mixing and mushing of texture and pattern.  The background has a lovely little house at the end of a path, and in the foreground the blackbird is finding berries.  Why people should take so much delight in watching birds eat I’m not sure I can explain.  I only know that we do.
        V is, I think, the only letter for which Harding has used a bird’s scientific name instead of its common name.  V is for Vanellas vanellas, which is the northern lapwing aka peewit.  How can you not admire the wonderful plume on its head?  In her little blurb about this piece, Harding mentions that she remembers lapwings in her childhood near “the small outcrop of trees called the Callow,” which I assume is what’s showing in the background of the piece.  That means this scene is actually a real, particular landscape.  I wonder how many of the others are?
        Finally, for any alphabet you always have to check X.  Yes, Harding has cheated, as one so often has to do for X, but I think her choice is rather clever.  X is for Dodo, the universal symbol of all the birds and creatures that are no more.
        In addition to these small wood engravings,  Harding does a lot of linoleum block prints, and combinations of relief printing with color blocks from screen printing, as well.  She’s illustrated a book of birds, as well as a number of other books and book covers, but they’re all focussed on wildlife in landscapes.



[Pictures: K is for Kingfisher;

B is for Blackbird;

V is for Vanellas Vanellas;

X is for Dodo, all wood engravings by Angela Harding (Images from AngelaHarding.co.uk).]

August 1, 2022

Tales After Tolkien Guest Post

         Today’s post is just a short signpost, to send you over to the Tales After Tolkien Society, where I have a guest post about the connection between medievalism, Tolkien, and my bestiary On the Virtues of Beast of the Realms of Imagination.  I’m delighted to be featured there because I’m always a scholar at heart, despite not having gone into academia.  So when I heard from a fellow author about their invitation to fantasy authors to reflect on how medievalism and Tolkien-ism influence their work, I jumped on the opportunity.
        Head right on over to Guest Post: A Modern Fantasy Project with a Medieval Inspiration.  And be sure to leave a comment and give Tales After Tolkien some love!
[Picture: Tales After Tolkien Society header (Image from Tales After Tolkien).]