“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”
I have always been fond of this quote from Cervantes' Don Quixote. It reminds me that life is about balance and that dreaming is a necessity in that balance. As an educator and working artist, it is easy for me to slip into bad habits all in the name of efficiency and lose my balance. The loss of balance always means to lose time creating. I find myself kidding myself that I can "make time." Rushing from activity to obligation, thinking that the more boxes I check and the faster I check them that I will somehow "buy" myself more time in the studio. Growing fatigued in body and spirit are always the telltale signs that I need to slow down and be more present to my work and life in general. In my efforts to hit the reset button, I often find the structure of a class helpful. Thanks to a generous grant from my employer, I was able to reset myself creatively this summer by taking a class in woodblock printing at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.
My fascination with printmaking began about three years ago after seeing some amazing works of Japanese wood block in exhibits for artists' books at both the Freer Gallery and the National Arboretum in DC. I begin exploring this new medium by reading old books on relief printing that had been gathering dust on the school studio shelves, experimenting with studio leftovers, and watching DIY videos on You Tube. Here is one of the videos that I found particularly interesting and inspirational:
All great resources, but working on your own can only take you so far. Eventually, you need guidance, critique, and creative dialogue. This is just what I have found in my print making class!
Our first project is a reduction block print. Below is the first step, the background. As I understand it we will progressively carve away at the block in order to create our image.
Working in a class with a fellow artists and folks who are completely new to the visual arts has been amazing. All new to the medium and techniques, there is a fun and freedom that is renewing to the spirit. Nothing turns out as I expect it, but that's better, it forces me to think beyond my usual perspectives. A natural lover of realism, my table mate is a devotee of abstractionism. His vision and "go with the flow" attitude helps me see beyond familiar patterns and be more open to experimenting with and celebrating simple elements most especially shape and color.
Stay tuned for updates on my printmaking experiences throughout the summer.