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  • Writer's pictureApril Gavin

Winter Fruit

Art is work though to some it may look like play. Up until a month ago, I would have firmly called art a practice. Illustrator Allen Say shook up that thought in his book Drawing from Memory. His teacher called art a constant discovery and seeing. That sounds closer to my experience and I work very hard at these two things.

As December wound itself down, I took the time to discover and see with new eyes. It has been some time since I worked with still life and oil pastels. Drawing with something directly in front of you is a very different kind of seeing than drawing from a photo or from imagination.

My paintings for the last year have been in watercolor which I love to work in. It was refreshing though to work in oil pastels. It's a more forgiving medium than watercolor or printmaking. Mainly because the intense amount of layering you can do.

I start with a basic pencil outline then dive in with the pastels. I love the way the colors blend and the lush smell and feel of the medium.

During the week of Christmas, I taught myself four color lino-cut reduction. I'm really proud of this. The drawing is one I made of a trillium many years ago.

After transferring the drawing to my linoleum, I carved out the places I wanted to remain white mainly the corolla. Then I printed in yellow. Then, I went to lunch and let the ink dry. I use Akua inks which have a slow drying time.

Then I carved out the stamens of the flower and anything else I wanted to remain yellow. I inked up and printed in green. Then I stopped for the day and let this second layer dry over night.

My third color felt a little iffy. Initially, I though a neutral gray, but it wasn't working. Then I settled on a brown-ish/green color. But first, I had to carve away anything that I wanted to remain green. That took time.

At first thought, I wasn't pleased with the color. That's my cue to stop and do something else. I cogitated for a few days on how to save it. AND

SUCCESS! I started with an edition of 22 prints. Some didn't work out - they were smudged, mis-registered, too splotchy. I'm counting 16 as good enough for public consumption. Here's what the linoleum plate looked like at the very end.

I'm ready to try more and went to Blick earlier this week to buy more linoleum.

On the subject as art as work, I also wanted to share this idea. It comes from our friend Albert Einstein and the idea is called combinatory play. I hope you read the article linked from The Marginalia, but basically the concept is this: when you're stuck on a problem, do something else. Something way out. Einstein himself played violin. Illustrator and two time Caldecott Award winner Sophie Blackall admitted to making muffins. I learned how to make fresh pasta.

A few Christmas's ago, Tom got me a pasta machine. I attempted a few times to make things like fettuccine, lasagna, and ravioli. The results were edible, but not quite right. Normally, I'm a fearless cook. Pie dough - ha! Yeasted breads like bagels, focaccia, pizza, sandwich bread - double ha! I had met my defeat at the thought of a noodle. So, I took a cooking class to learn how to make fresh pasta. The results were high quality. I will be making another batch this weekend.

Enjoy the return of the light!


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