June 19, 2024

Block-Printed Familiars

         Today I have for you two pieces that feature magical women with magical companions.  Both pieces were featured in the Annual Exhibition of the UK Society of Wood Engravers (2022, I think).  The on-line gallery includes only minimal information about each piece, which is too bad, because I’d love to learn the stories behind them, especially for this first one by India Rose Bird.  Entitled “Conversation with a Familiar,” does this refer to a specific story or a specific character?  Or has the artist made up this scenario entirely?  There are all kinds of magical touches in this night scene.  In addition to the woman and the bird, there’s the cauldron with its mysterious vapors, there are two dryads for protection and companionship, and there are symbols making borders along the top and bottom.  It’s the familiar who seems to be doing the talking in this moment, and of course I’d love to know what they’re saying!
        The second piece is less mysterious in that it’s clearly showing Baba Yaga with her chicken-legged house.  I like the touches of mushrooms growing out of the house as well as the ground, and I love that she’s reading a book (as befits an Ex Libris).  As for familiars, this magical woman has plenty.  She seems to be communing not only with a black bird, as in our first block print, but also an owl, a black cat, and a frog down below.
        This is a theme that’s pretty well guaranteed to strike my fancy, which is why it’s interesting that, now that I think of it, I haven’t done exactly this myself.  I have done a fair handful of pieces that include people and creatures in some sort of magical relationship, and I’m always mulling more ideas in this vein.  Although the mood and tone of these two pieces today are quite different, I like them both very much, and they get me thinking once again about what I might imagine next.

[Pictures: Conversation with a Familiar, wood engraving by India Rose Bird, c. 2022;

Ex Libris M. Gashi-Butler, wood engraving by Vladimir Kortovich, c. 2022 (Images from Society of Wood Engravers).]


Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

Oh, I like those tow very much. If I ever had an ex libris I would like it to be like the baba Yaga one - minus cat and raven :)
I tried spelling my way through the Cyrillic letters, but got lost. Reading "Iz knig (same as ex libris) M. Gaszczi Batler". Help how much of this is right? I taught myself to read and write Cyrillic after watching Dr. Zhivago over 40 years ago, I became quite proficient, even to writing my diary in Cyrillic letters (but Danish language). Now I can hardly read any of what I wrote. I felt very dramatic, playing Lara's theme on the piano and writing in these pretty, Cyrillic letters :)
Sorry for the meandering and reminiscing comments - there's something about the artworks you choose that speak to the "me" from the past.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

It's fun when art makes that sort of connection! I sort of learned Cyrillic about 35 years ago, but was never great, and I'm afraid I remember almost nothing at this point.