Snowman Print 2021

This year’s linocut print is very topical and reflects the strange times we’re living in.

It took me a couple sketches to get the right image that I was willing to carve and then print. There is a bit of improvisation in the carving process but you really need to preplan the finished image only you have to think backwards.

My final sketch where I zeroed in on the design, which didn’t change much from this sketch.Okay there is one less button in the carved block. You will notice that the final print, the image is reversed.

In the end I’m satisfied with the final prints and they speak to the post Covid times. While Christmas is an escape from reality, we should never fully forget what has happened in the past few years and this image is a reminder.

Carving the block. I went over the lines in a back marker so it makes carving out the image a little bit easier. I made a few mistakes in the carving but now, like Japanese pottery, they become part of the final product.
Here is the finished block with my makeshift registration jig. The jig lines up the paper so the print appears in the same place on every printing. Now it only needed to be charged with black ink and pressed into paper.
This print was one of those “happy accidents”. The paper shifted slightly during printing and created a unique image that is almost impossible to duplicate. I love it’s expressiveness. I gave this print to my best friend.

This Year’s Snowmen

Every year, since 2007, I have created a winter themed linoleum cut print at this time of year. And for my twelfth print, it again was tough to start the process as inspiration does not always come when I want it to. I have done so many of the these snowman prints and I wondered what could I do that would be new and inspire me to take on the creative labor of making these prints?

I decided to think of the print as a self portrait. But not in the sense that would be very obvious. I guess it is really a manifestation of my philosophy on educating our youth put into a single image.

One of the most important parts of my job is to point out the wonder in the world. To be the curator of life, at least for 180 days. Of course it is not a California State Standard but when there is wonder around, you just have to point it out.

What has really inspired this print has been my autumn birding outings with my young acolyte, Grasshopper Sparrow and his recent finding of a rare brown booby over the bay waters at Coyote Point.

Spending time in the natural world with a young one that sees the wonder of the world is an experience that fills my soul and give me hope for a generation that spend too much time wrapped in technology and not enough time in nature.

An alternate version of the print would be the young snow-student pointing to a point of wonder and the larger, teacher raising his hands in awe at the wonder of youth and surprise. Both versions would be applicable to the humbling experience of teaching.

This is the first draft sketch of the print design. I did this during a lull at a staff meeting. It probably took me less than a minute to put my mind’s concept to paper because I already had the image fully formed in my mind’s eye.

A refined draft sketch which I used to draw the design on the linoleum block, in reverse of course. Here I am just started to carve out the block.

At this stage I have carved away all the material that I do not want to print black and the block is really starting to look like the image I had in mind. The next step is to charge the block with ink and make a proof print.

Fresh prints drying before I hand tint each one with watercolor. Each print is different and it takes time to learn to embrace the medium and recognize to let go of complete control of the printing process.


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.