Step by Step

::: By Hand and On Foot :::

Month: January 2011

Mix and Match

I’m working on a couple of new linoleum blocks but they aren’t ready to show yet, so I’ll revisit some more work from this past fall’s etching class.

My etching instructor, Rebecca, had a wonderful knack for just saying a word here or there that opened up a whole new train of thought and work. I had done two versions of Baba Yaga, one etching and one linoleum block, and was musing about how to integrate my various printmaking interests. Rebecca tossed off the idea that it might be fun to try a chine colle using a block print as the added paper. And so a whole new project was born.

Of course, being insane, I didn’t just experiment with one image. I immediately launched into a set of four tangentially related etchings, with four corresponding block prints. My theme was based (loosely) on the town of Freedom, California, which has a wonderful name. It is largely agricultural, and when you drive through the township you see all the workers bending over in the sun, tending to the fields and working hurriedly to maximize their piece-work wages. Most are Mexican, and I suspect a fair number are probably illegal immigrants; all are trying to realize the American dream. They are looking for freedom, but the back-breaking work, long hours, exposure to chemicals and pesticides, poor housing, and sometimes exploitative employers belie the idea or image of freedom.

The four image sets I came up with are fields (block print) with pickers (etching); telephone poles (block print) with housing (etching); a chicken — the colloquial term for an illegal alien who pays someone to lead them across the border (both block print and etching); and a coyote — the term for the person who leads immigrants across the border (intended block print and etching, but only finished the etching).

My idea was to take all these images and print them all on one sheet, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s prints.
Andy Warhol's print of Marilyn Monroe

But my idea for the block print of the coyote never came true; I tried carving it several times without success, I suspect because I hadn’t really taken the time to think it all the way through. So the four-up vision never happened, either, and a group print of three images is no where as easy to lay out as a group of four. I had a lot of fun playing with the various images, however, and since it was all an experiment in the first place, I have to say I’m pleased with the results.

Here is the coyote and chicken with a couple of yellow chine colle bars holding them together.
Coyote and chicken with yellow

The coyote with the block print version of the chicken. In this case, I printed the block print off-center, so the etching would be on the rice paper of the block print, yet not overlaid over the block print.
Coyote and chicken faceoff

Here is the chicken etching on top of the chicken block print.
Chicken on chicken action

Housing and telephone poles.
Housing and telephone poles

Workers and fields. I like how the workers are so ephemeral against the background.
Working in the fields

This is the closest I came to realizing my initial vision: coyote, fieldworkers, and chicken.
Trio of prints

I’m looking forward to devising other projects where I combine printmaking techniques. This gave me much food for thought!

Santa Cruzin’

I’ve been catching up on some hiking and walking lately, mostly around Santa Cruz itself. I am still sometimes amazed that I live in California, even after 16 years here; even more amazed that I am lucky enough to live in Santa Cruz, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever lived.

Santa Cruz is nestled between redwood mountains and the Monterey Bay. I live about a mile from one of the local state beaches, and one of my favorite walks is what I call my beach loop. On a recent loop walk I encountered some hula-hooping young men, who offered to give me lessons. How could I pass that up?
I encounter the hula hoop.
This was the first time I ever kept the hoop going for more than a single turn. Woohoo!

A few days later I took a twilight walk. It was a beautiful evening, with lots of people out.
Here’s a guy on a bike, riding/climbing over the jacks that serve as the lighthouse’s breakwater.
Tricky riding!

Surfers waiting for the next wave.
Waiting for a wave
Here’s one!
Catching a wave

I’m not the only photographer.
Twilight photographer

A child running on the sand.
Child running on the sand

Sunset over the pier.
Santa Cruz sunset

And one last surfer, looking for one last ride.
Last surfer

The farmers’ market that Sarah-Hope and I frequent is on the other side of town. After this morning’s veggie shopping, we went for a stroll on West Cliff, the road the skirts Santa Cruz’s ocean bluffs. Our goal: more surfers.
Surf's up!

We found them, on Santa Cruz’s famed surfing ground, Steamer Lane.


We also found a lot of people (and dogs) out for their morning constitutionals.
Walking on West Cliff

And these really interesting sling bikes. More like scooters, actually, since they didn’t have pedals. Instead, the riders loped along, suspended in their saddles from the overhead framework. Fascinating.
Sling bikes

My apologies to my east coast friends, who are encountering freezing temperatures and piles of snow, but I just can’t help it: I must say that I am living in paradise!

Pilgrimage: The Magazine

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am obsessed with all things pilgrimage, following my long walk across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. This fall, I was noodling around on the internet when I found a link for Pilgrimage Magazine, based in Pueblo, Colorado. To quote from their website,

Pilgrimage Magazine, published three times a year, emphasizes themes of place, spirit, peace & justice, in and beyond the Greater Southwest.

Well, that is all right up my alley, so I contacted the editors.

I am very, very pleased to say that the new issue of Pilgrimage has just come out, and it contains two of my Camino prints, along with a host of truly excellent poems and short stories. I am so excited!

The new issue of Pilgrimage Magazine.

Each issue of the magazine has a theme. The theme of this issue is “Between the Dead & the Living,” which comes from an entry in Charles Darwin‘s journals. To quote from editor Maria Melendez’s introduction to the volume:

…[Charles Darwin] expresses delight and wonder at similarities between South American fossil species and living South American animals. He’s certain ‘this wonderful relationship in the same continent between the dead and the living’ will, more than any other line of inquiry, illuminate the mystery of ‘the appearance of organic beings on our earth and their disappearance from it.'” Beloved organic beings do disappear, but they remain: in fossils, stories, evolutionary transformations, lingering memories…

To be honest, I had meant to buy a back issue before this one came out, but being a professional procrastinator, I had not gotten around to it. Let me say this now: this magazine is GOOD. I have read it through once, and I know I will sit and re-read it again …and again. And I will go and purchase back issues. You should buy a copy, too. You will not be disappointed.

Here is one of my prints, Following in the Footsteps of Generations, in place, with the magazine held open by one of my favorite rocks (picked up at the beach in Pescadero):
Following in the Footsteps, in situ.

Opposite my print is a poem by Jane Vincent Taylor, who has kindly given me permission to re-copy it here.

All our seasons come back stamped
with the old rituals and their demands:
pray the rosary and give up something
hard for Lent, said Sister Veronice, as
new snow watered the tips of crocus.

We gave up chocolate, Elvis, pizza,
movies, records, and sleeping late,
but we didn’t give up kissing, longing,
prowling the boundaries of love.

I still tend to cheat. Today, walking
like a glutton into a cold Lenten morning
wrapped in lavender, capped in Valentine
red, I will not deny myself

these Franciscan woods where passion
waits under leaves and rocks and moss.
If there must be a litany, as it seems
there always must, say: alfalfa white,
sumac rust, lichen blue; say sycamore

suede, cauliflower cloud on faded blue.
Look, here’s a spark of Jay, a rhythmic
knock of Ladderback, and a smaller
Downy flown to the blackjack brambles.
Today, I will let the cedar berries be

rosary beads; my losses and my gifts,
my mysteries. I will give up everything
except the whole loved world that never
fails to soften, break apart, and rise.

Burden, in the magazine.

P.S. Pilgrimage Magazine‘s website has not yet been updated to include this issue. I’m sure it will be very, very soon. In the meantime, you could harass your local bookstore to carry it!

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