I am attempting to expand my printmaking focus and create more woodcut prints. One reason is that I love the way the wood grain comes through on the print. I also find the act of carving the wood very therapeutic, almost meditative. The wood also guides me, helping me with the direction that I take the work and I love aspect of the creative partnership with the medium.
I try to find discarded scrap wood, if possible, so that I can try to minimize my impact on the trees used for plywood, etc. It's not always easy or practical to do this but I think it's worth the effort to find scrap when and where I can.
I find that my approach to carving the wood is similar to my approach to creating aquatint etchings where I tend to use multiple strokes to add depth to the image. With etchings, I use a brush with stopout (both asphaltum-based and acrylic-based) to create the varied layers of tints. And with woodcuts, it seems natural to me to make the same type of marks with my carving tools. I'm not sure if this is the best approach to use for wood since it lends itself to yielding more bold and graphic prints than does etching. Yet, it seems that my style leans more towards the subtle and a focus on detail (unless I'm working on monotypes), so this comes through on my woodcut work as well as with my etchings.
Digging through some boxes, I came across this note that I haven't seen in years but kept because it's part of a story that I always wanted to remember. When folded the front reads, "To the woman with the long brown hair on the parlor floor..." and the inside reads, "There's a duck in your backyard, this isn't a joke. Please take care of him." It's a story that partially inspired this etching entitled "Free."
Plate size:9" x 6"
Here's the story:
A very, very long time ago, I lived in Brooklyn, specifically Cobble Hill, in a strange 1-block neighborhood that was wedged between the BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expressway) and the Hudson River. The block had been cut off from the rest of Cobble Hill in the 1950s when the BQE was built and it was part of a strange area on the waterfront that ran from Cobble Hill to Redhook where there was a mix of apartment buildings, brownstones, varied businesses and warehouses. I had regularly heard talk in the neighborhood about a poultry slaughterhouse that was among the warehouses near the river.
One day, I came home from work to find the note pictured above taped to the front door of the brownstone where I lived. I guessed that my reputation as an animal rescuer (I regularly rescued strays from the street) had reached beyond my circle of friends and subsequently resulted in this note being left on my door. Though I really didn't know anything about ducks.
I went into the backyard and sure enough there was a bird in my backyard, though not a duck, but a beautiful white goose that I assumed was an escapee from the local poultry slaughterhouse. I tried to approach her and she just kept moving away in fear, so I let her be. I really knew nothing about geese either.
I went to the kitchen and looked for whatever vegetables I could find in the fridge and left them out for the goose hoping that something might catch her fancy. I realized that I was going to have to figure out how to take care of this goose properly so I searched for a place where I could buy goose food and other goose necessities. Not surprisingly, I could not find a store in New York City that supplied such things.
Though I was really guessing (there was no internet then to google "goose care"), I figured that I needed some hay and some goose food to start. I found an Agway in Connecticut and went on a road trip to get the needed staples and hopefully some sound advice about how to care for a goose.
Once I had the goose supplied with goose pellets and hay for a bed, I enlisted my friend to build a wooden "house" which as I far as I can tell was never used by the goose. I also had a kiddie pool which was a leftover prop from a photo shoot and I filled it with water which the goose immediately took to.
The goose never let me get near her but I liked to think she was happy splashing around in the kiddie pool, having her fill of goose pellets and settling happily in her mound of hay. But one day, after a couple of months had gone by, I came home from work and she was gone. My unemployed neighbor downstairs, who was home all day and who gave me daily goose reports, told me, "I watched as your goose just flew away."
I never saw the goose again but I wanted to believe that she flew to a nicer place away from the city where she was able to live out her natural life unmolested by anyone who would use her and/or do her harm. But I am not naive and I know that a domestic bird would probably not fare well out there in the raw city or even beyond if she got that far. Still, I wanted to imagine her flying and living Free.