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2017 Winter Linocut Print

It is that time of year when I continue my tradition of creating a linocut print, a gift to my friends and family.

I had read that children in Japan, design, cut, and print a holiday woodcut for their families. Over the past ten years I have started this tradition in my own life.

This year I decided to keep it basic. No background. No Border. No complex lines. Just a snowman on white.

In the past, I tried to get perfectly inked blocks that would leave perfectly black lines. This year I want to embrace imperfect perfection. A celebration of the medium, its benefits and it’s limitations. As a result, this years prints has more of a brush-like quality.

A coffeehouse design sketch in a Stillman & Birn journal. This is the sketch that would go on the linoleum. When it prints, it is the mirror reversed image (featured image).

Over the course of a week I sketched out designs for the print, making small changes until I had settled on an image that worked. In the end, the image is a snowman, facing away from the viewer, his head held up, scarf flowing behind, and his arms raised to the sky. The title of this print is “A Prayer”.

Preparing to print with a charged linocut and my Speedball printer’s press. For these prints I used black oil-based ink and then mixing in a little brown ink. The prints will later be hand painted with watercolor.

I leave it up to the viewer as to what the snowman is praying for or even if he can pray at all.

The title was inspired by the Mary Oliver poem, A Summer Day. In the final few lines she writes:

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

I have always loved this poem. It captures the ephemeral nature of life. Just like the snowman, who lives but a short season. Maybe that’s what he’s praying for: more time.

Like the proverbial snowflake, each handmade print is unique.