Monday, December 29, 2014

Gone Fishin'

Literally. I went fishing today. And also this past Saturday. I've never been particularly picky about what I catch when I go. Catfish are awesome. Bass? You know it. Shiners? Why not? But I really, really love catching bluegill. Or brim, bream, sunfish, sunnies, 'gills, panfish. They are great little fish. They are easy to catch and put up a great fight on light tackle. They also taste like someone went up into heaven, visited a restaurant intended for the greatest of saints, ordered from the chef's personal, secret menu and brought a doggie bag back home. Seriously, these are the best tasting fish in the world. Salt, pepper, breaded with flour or cornmeal (whatever), with lemon juice squeezed over them while hot. Holy mackerel. Or do I mean... Holy BLUEGILL?!?!

Anyway, we did very well at the lakes and I had a refrigerator full of bluegills. So now you know what I'm having for dinner tonight!

A beautiful little fish, who, unfortunately for him, tastes delicious.

Thursday, December 25, 2014


I made this drawing a couple of years ago for the cover to the program for my school's Lessons and Carols. I have always had a soft spot for Virgin and Child images, particularly since my wife and I started having children (seriously, you need to look at any of Raphael's paintings on the subject – but my favorite is this one for pure cheek).

Well, the cover was a hit with only a tiny bit of controversy surrounding baby Jesus' obvious nudity. Why include the little bits and pieces you ask? Well, there is a very long tradition of doing just that. If you took my suggestion to look at some of the Raphael paintings or if you broaden your horizons and look around some more you'll see a positively un-Puritanical amount of nudity. Artists did this because orthodox Christianity is not gnostic! We have bodies, they are good and the Son of God Himself has taken on our humanity – He became a man and dwelt among us! – and has put His seal of approval upon our physical existence.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

UPDATE: You can see one of my older Christmas pictures over at National Catholic Register at Simcha Fisher's blog. It's the image based on Revelation 12 that I have written about previously.

Monday, December 22, 2014


I thought this might be an appropriate time to look at some monsters because perhaps with Christmas so close your children are acting like little monsters, shoppers are acting like monsters, you are acting like a monster, etc. Whatever the reason, I've never thought there was a bad time to look at monsters. Especially fun guys like these good looking dudes.

The exact nature of the mechanics of eating for this one have always eluded me.

The classic insect/mammal hybrid.

The fish head guy. He's hairy, so he's a mammal? But he also has gills, so...
The astute reader has already seen the 2013 date beside my name on these drawings, and yes, I've written about them here and here. But I never showed you any close ups. So enjoy this early Christmas present.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Internal Lives of Extinct Animals

What exactly was it like to be an ophiacodon? A dimetrodon or diplocaulus? Perhaps a lone euplocephalus? You can stop wondering because I can tell you. It was a world of paranoia and existential angst. As my scientific illustrations clearly show, these beasts had a life of strange dreams, misunderstandings and fears of abandonment. 

From the drawing book Sleep of Reason

From the drawing book Sleep of Reason
From the drawing book Sleep of Reason
From the drawing book Dreams and Visions

I think they best serve as a cautionary tale: avoid dreams, certainly don't talk about them. Don't answer the phone, it probably really is a trap. Your kids? they're just as weird looking as you no matter what you do. And are you alone? Does it matter? You're probably looking at the business end of a giant asteroid anyway. Aaarrrooo indeed. Aaarrrooo indeed.

I plan on diving into the psyche of plenty of other animals in the future. I'm in the middle of getting to know another dimetrodon (Yes, another one. When will this magnificent animal stop giving?) I'm, of course, currently hiding many of my other drawings from you because you're unlikely to be able to handle the raw implications of the mental difficulties of some of the most iconic prehistoric beasts.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bleeding heart tetra

Here's an old one. Sorta. I made this woodcut about 150 years ago back when I was keeping a 55 gallon tank full of fish. One of the fish took a kamikaze out of the tank and wound up on my drawing board. Ever since I cut this block (one of my first woodcuts) and printed it poorly a couple of times, it has been languishing in a drawer.

A couple of weeks back, I stumbled across it and decided to give it one more go. So here you are, a bleeding heart tetra in all his woodcut and watercolor glory.

A fish among the plants

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Old Man

For years I have struggled with the Old Man. St. Paul uses the imagery of the Old Man to talk about what a man (or woman) is before life in Christ. He says the old man has been crucified with Christ and that we no longer live to him (the Old Man) and he calls for us to cast off this old man. This is a very easy thing to say but not so much in the doing. 

I've tended to deal with it in my artwork in a couple of ways. The first is with the idea of the old man being a literal other body like we have here:

That which I would, that I do not!
At conversion it seems that a man is split in two; with a New Man and an Old Man, both of which vie for control. This is wonderfully and confoundingly explored in Romans chapter seven.

Another way I have thought about the Old Man is through the image of a minotaur. I have about three tons of minotaur drawings. Here are a couple of them:

Minotaur as sinner

Minotaur as tempter

Minotaur as an identity to be tried on

Minotaur as an identity to be cast off!
 What exactly is a minotaur? Here's my understanding of this beast. Man is the pinnacle of creation – we are made in the image of God. And our minds (or hearts) are understood to be the thing most like God. He reasons, we reason; He feels, we feel. But the Minotaur is an obscenity. He is a man, but his reason or heart has been replaced with that of a beast. The minotaur is the complete abdication of a man's mind and passions to his base, animal desires.

I see both of these images – that of the dual-man and the minotaur – as fertile material for exploring St. Paul's compelling imagery. Of course, there is a ton more to say about both the Scriptures and even about my drawings of them. But these are drawings and they are meant to be looked at and not read about!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Coloring Pages

There are those who excel at making color prints. They will cut multiple color blocks, plan, scheme, arrange, experiment and print, print, print until they have a virtual painting of a print. Others will do all the planning and scheming but choose to do a reduction linocut or woodcut. This is even more difficult than cutting multiple color blocks. It takes A LOT of forethought and complex mental visualizations before setting out to make a piece.

Right about now you are asking yourself if I, your host and artist, do either of these things. I have in the past. But now I prefer to choose the tertium quid. I choose to color my prints. Watercolor actually. It's a ton of fun and the results can be very satisfying. Since I print my linocuts in oil based ink, it's super easy to break out the watercolors  and paint right over the black ink once it's dry. (This works because, as you know, oil repels water. When I used to work at a grocery store way, way back in my dumb youth, we would use this fascinating principle for evil. We would tell the new baggers that the salad dressings had begun to separate and that they needed to shake them all up until they were a nice consistent blend. Depending on how sharp the bagger was, he could be there shaking salad dressings for a very long time.)

Anyway, here are the results on my chicken print. You know, the print you all have been salivating over and can't wait to buy? (See the Etsy button up in the left-hand corner? Go ahead an click on it!)
Here is the original, the-way-I-always-envisioned-it black and white image.

And...... Glorious Color!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Bird comes off the Block

After having worked on this print of one of my cream legbars for over a month (I began it on October 23rd) it was time to print it this morning. I showed up early, set up the press, cut my paper, scrubbed my block and rolled out the ink. All of these actions take on the significance of ritual when you have been looking forward to seeing a print as long as I have been anticipating this one. I held the inked brayer over the clean block briefly and savored the moment. And also my heart beat a little faster. I won't hide that from you. Printmaking is magic and one should approach it with the proper wonder and trepidation.

Here's a cool cock-eyed picture to show I'm hip and that I get the pun in "cock-eyed" when it comes to a hen.

Here we are before the plunge. There's no ink on the block yet, just the original drawing. And also many, many hours of drawing and cutting.
I took my time, building up the ink on the block slowly so as not to fill in the finer cuts and then put it on the press bed. No matter how carefully I make my cuts, it is always a surprise when I see the ink rolled on the block. It's always so much blacker, so much richer than I thought it would be. I pulled the first proof and I loved it. I even had a very small (very, very small – vanishing actually) catch in my throat! I was afraid that I had not handled all the different textures well and that the chicken had blended in with the busy, busy background; but it looks to me like everything stands out properly with all aspects of the print being clear. 

One thing that always gets me about linocuts is the fact that the final image is the reverse of the image as drawn on the block. I spend hours and hours – probably 25 or 30 for this image – looking at it one way and then have it suddenly reversed at the last minute. I always have to do a double take.

Like I said before, this is magic, pure and simple. I have the idea of a chicken, make a drawing of it, cut out and refine all the lines and then – BOOM – something that looks like what I drew, but not quite, is sitting there on the paper, fully made as many times as I care to print it.

Success! We have a chicken prowling the front yard!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Britain's Protomartyr

What the heck is a protomartyr anyway, Clark? It sounds vaguely of cavemen and authralopithecines. (Which, now that I see these words written on the screen in front of me, strikes me as a very interesting idea for a series of drawings.) Well anyway, I agree with you, but I didn't make up the term, I'm just using it correctly. So cut me some slack. "Protomartyr" simply means "first martyr". 

If you are curious, you can read St. Alban's story here and allow Wikipedia to endow you with both knowledge and distraction. 

The reason I  have a drawing of St. Alban to show you is because I am a member of St. Alban's Anglican Cathedral in sunny Central Florida. Now, if you know anything about Anglican worship, you know it can be off-putting if you don't already know what is going on. We use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and our liturgy is correspondingly... um... confusing if you are unaccustomed to it. (I have grown to love it over the years for a host of reasons and cannot image going back now.) Instead of asking visitors to try to keep track of a bulletin, Bible, Book of Common Prayer, and a hymnal, we have made a visitor's bulletin that contains the liturgy, service music and prompts as to when to sit, stand, genuflect, cross yourself, etc. So this thing needed a picture on the front and that's where my drawing comes in. 

Actually the whole thing needed to be designed as well as illustrated. My able, talented and beautiful wife did the design work and drafted me to do the illustration work. I'll post a link to the finished bulletin if it ever makes its way online. It looks great!

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Drawing for Black Friday

This is Friday and not Thursady, I know I have promised a new post every Monday and Thursday. Please write me for a full refund of you subscription fees and I'll make sure to get those right to you.

In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of TUBEMAN! The Coelasapien. I would explain, but I'm sure you are more than capable of deciphering my subtle, subtle criticism of rampant materialism.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Misheard Lyrics

I need some sleep. 
My 3rd grade son really enjoys looking through my drawing books. He has his favorites and likes to tell me about them. He told me that his absolute favorite was the drawing above, My Drawing Books Preserve Me because, well, I guess he found the title funny. How can a book "preserve" you? Now this is funny because, as you will notice, the text actually says My Drawing Books Pursue Me and Intrude Upon My Dreams. (I had made this drawing because of an anxiety-laden dream I had about my books being destroyed in a fire no matter if I kept them at home or on my bookshelf at work. Either way I had to run into the burning building to save them. This idea of a burning book gave rise to another drawing that I will talk about on Thursday.)

So of course I started to turn that phrase over and over in my mind. What does it mean that my drawing books "preserve" me? How could I show that? I decided to further a theme that I've had going in this book for some time – that of things coming out of my head. On a yellow background. So I went with that and came up with this image.

Wherein books spring, fully formed from my head.
I showed it to my boy; he laughed a little and then went about his business of playing. Oh well, perhaps I thought it a more profound question than my 8 year old did.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


"So I says to 'im, I says..."
These are a couple of one-sided conversations. It seems the male humilobite on top is trying to have a conversation with an unwilling diplocaulus. He's having none of it. And the acanthostega is similarly rebuffed by the demure female humilobite on the bottom. Of course, the question to ask is, "What would a couple of humilobites have in common with some ancient amphibians anyway?".

Monday, November 17, 2014

On the Printing of Fish

I am a beautiful print and a delicious dish!
I have continued with my gyotaku experiments. This tilapia is probably my most successful attempt at making one of these prints to date. It’s pretty big at about 14 or 15 inches and the scales are really prominent. That has been a problem for me with the smaller fish like bluegills because the scales are so small that I have had trouble getting them to register as scales. This is only a problem with my technique as I have seen plenty of examples of other artists getting very fine scales to print beautifully. I’m getting better! 

I used water based relief printing ink on this one for a couple of reasons. Number one, it was done in-class and I wanted easy clean up. Number two, water based ink is very easy to dilute with water. I mixed a little Daniel Smith water based burt umber relief ink (which takes forEVER to dry) with some speedball water based black relief ink and went to town using a 1 inch flat brush to apply the ink. It all went very quickly, the ink was easy to apply and clean-up was a breeze. And that’s really saying something for any printmaking project.

There is a very large plecostaomus in my freezer right now that is begging to be printed. I tried to print it over the summer but failed miserably! I’m not sure why it was such a disaster, but I have a few guesses. First of all, I was using an oil based relief ink that was undiluted. It did not want to adhere to the fish at all and I think it was too thick – not juicy enough – to really get in between the scales. The scales are the other issue. The pleco has skin like sandpaper. Very, very coarse sandpaper. (In fact, I caught the fish with my bare hands in a little stream by my house. It was so rough that I had no difficulty just grabbing hold and dropping it in a bucket. A very large bucket.) I think these scales somehow repelled the ink; or maybe they held on to the ink. Whatever, the actual prints were terrible and even I, the man who keeps everything, threw them out in disgust. This was a shame since I had even set up the camera and was shooting a time-lapse video of inking and printing this monster. I deleted the movie because I was so disappointed with the prints. 

I think the success of the tilapia print has encouraged me to give the pleco another shot. Look for more gyotaku in the coming weeks!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ha ha HA!

All this time you thought I was only working on my giant chicken linocut! But no! I was working on a clandestine print. It was all on the down low and very secretive. I needed some sort of a respite from all those ferns, so I switched it up to a different kind of leaf. Now, for the first time I reveal that I have been working on a linocut of sweet potato leaves!

This is an image of a common checkered skipper butterfly visiting some sweet potato blooms in my front yard. I was out tending to the ducks and chickens when I saw a few flowers on my sweet potatoes. They were a very lovely purple and white set against all the greens of the leaves. Add in a skipper butterfly and you have all the ingredients to a good linocut.

I actually made this piece for my wife who has long lamented that I don't make enough pictures with backgrounds. This is, of course, a matter of taste, but I can see her point and easily accommodate her wishes here. I enjoyed drawing and cutting this block and I look forward to watercoloring a few of them.

Look out for this print in my Etsy store in the next couple of days!

Here is the completed drawing on the block. I like a very finished drawing before I begin cutting.
After the drawing I put a very thin layer of ink over the image so I can get a clear sense of where I have already cut. 
This is the rather artfully posed block just before being readied for printing.
It needs a little cleaning up here and there, but I am well satisfied with this one.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Big Linocut Progress

It's been two weeks since I showed you my Big Linocut as I have it drawn on the block, so I thought I would give an update as to its progress so far. I made a couple of stop motion videos of my cutting process. It's a slow and tedious one – especially in the ferns.

This first video is a little choppy since I only took a picture every 5 or 10 seconds. I think it represents about a half an hour of cutting.

This one is better. I think it is smoother and it has some more fun animation aspects to it. Again, this is probably a half an hour of cutting (not including all the silly animations at the beginning).

So I have probably found five or six hours to carve on this block total. That's not a lot and as you can see, it's going to take me a while to get it cut!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

White on Black

This project that we gave our high schoolers gave them all sorts of troubles! Most folks are used to thinking in terms of black on white - you draw a black line on a white paper and then add value if you want to give volume to the form. But this assignment was to draw white on black. The darkest value was already there; the student's job was to draw in the lights without drawing a bunch of white lines. This proved to be almost impossible as I saw a lot of white line skulls. Sheesh.

On another note, this is one more point in my don't-ever-throw-anything-away-ever column. The surface I am drawing on here is the remnants of a black mat. There's a stack of these sitting in the art room just waiting for some good drawings!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Prints in Need of Redemption

Very often prints of mine turn out pretty good. Sometimes, they are good prints that got marred somehow and sometimes they turn out to be... lacking. Whatever the case, I rarely throw them away. I keep them for experiments. 

There are a lot of my old prints that have been reworked like this. In fact, I made an entire drawing book - Concerning Religious Affections - out of failed woodcuts and etchings. They provided a wonderful texture and backdrop to the atmosphere of the entire book.

The following images were taken from the drawing books Concerning Religious Affections and Family Resemblances.

Woodcut with collage and gold leaf 
Left: Relief printed etching and linocuts with gold leaf
Right: Woodcut with collage and gold leaf

Left: A mess
Right: Woodcut with collage, gouache, and gold leaf

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Taking Pictures, Making Pictures

Remember waaaayyyy, waaaayyyyy back when people used film? Back when you used to drop off your film and quiver with anticipation at what you would get back in a day or two? Or one hour if you were a big spender? Or how about this; you discover the holy grail of photography: the roll of forgotten and undeveloped film. The suspense was intense.

Not so much anymore. Everyone has a million pictures on his phone and photographs are largely throw-away things. Oh well, that's the way things go.

But what about those old photos? I used to keep almost all of them. Even the really bad ones because who knows? Maybe I'll think of a good use for them. These are all photo-collages that I made using old photographs.

Dream of the Advancing Minotaurs
For the Dream of Advancing Minotaurs, I used a picture of an old etching and pictures of my Dad and myself holding up a bull skull like we're a couple of minotaurs. By the way, that bull skull was one of the best Christmas presents I have ever gotten.

Matt and Amy
Both of these images are temptation scenes. That's about all I want to say about them.

Nimrod and His Father
The pictures on the left are of an etching and woodcut while the drawing of the snake on the right is a preparatory piece for a linocut. It so happens that I've always seen these images as part of a whole composition. I suppose the way I have reinforced that conception is by having the far left coil of the snake spill over slightly onto the preceding page. 

Anywho, if you have a bunch of old photographs, hang on to them. They may come in handy.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Big ol' Linocut

I started work on a new linocut. It's another chicken and this time it's a cream legbar hen. They're funny looking birds with bouffant hairdos. At 12" square this will be my largest linocut to date*.

Day 1: At this point I have about an hour and a half in this drawing. 
Day 2: Here I have about another two and a half hours in the drawing. Give or take.
Day 3: I've really lost track, but I probably have another three and a half to four hours in the drawing.
Day 4: Aaannnnndddd finished.
And that's it. It took maybe nine or ten hours to draw this chicken among the ferns. Many people can draw faster than me, I'm sure. But from here, I have many hours of being hunched over the block to look forward to! I actually do look forward to it. It's cliche, I know, but it is contemplative to spend such a long time at such a simple task. If I refrain from listening to music (which I don't always do) I have nothing to do but think as I work.

I don't know how long it will take to cut this block, but I'll get another post ready to go as soon as the proofs are ready to show.

*I have worked on one other linocut this size with my friend, Ned Bustard, but it was a half and half type deal.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cutting Linoleum - The Aftermath

Isn't that a better title than "Cutting Linoleum part 2"? It sounds so ominous. It sounds like all of my predictions of perfection were ill founded and destined for failure. Well, happily that is not the case. I pulled five proofs (a "proof" is sort of like a test run for prints) and I was very happy with them all!

I was unable to wait until I had a proper block of time to print, so I hastily spread out my stuff in between classes today. I like to print my linocuts by hand if I'm only doing a few. For a larger edition, I will break out the press. In the picture below the ink and brayer (roller) are pretty self-explanatory, as is the inked block. But what is that brown disk just to the top right of the block? That is called a barren and it's a small disk that is covered with a bamboo leaf. The barren is what you use to rub the back of the paper when it is placed on the block. (Alternately, I have an old wooden spoon that has been worn to perfection over many years of use.)

My ad hoc print station
I printed on two kinds of paper. The first proof was pulled on one of those handmade Thai papers that has little bits of plant matter imbedded in the fibers (the smallest of the five proofs above). It turned out nice, but I wanted to try a different paper. Kitakata paper is a thin, silky Japanese paper that is great for relief printmaking and the remaining four proofs are printed on this paper.

The human gaze is met with a nonplussed poultry stare.
This is the resulting print. I love the lines in linocuts. They are different from drawings, I would say they are more unrefined, but that is not really true. Each of the lines in a linocut has been cut once on the left, once on the right and then further trimmed by the blade until it is just right. So if anything, the lines in a linocut are far more refined than those in a drawing. But they still retain a naive quality that drawings do not necessarily possess. Whatever the case, I really, really like them.

I am very happy with this print and will pull an edition of it in the next week or two. The edition will be limited to 25 numbered prints on Kitakata paper. In addition to this there will be 5 prints hand colored using watercolor. The prints measure 6.25" x 4". Since you are obviously dying to get your hands on one, you may purchase these prints at my Etsy shop here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cutting Linoleum

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me to explain the process of making a linocut... I'd have a nickel. So I'll just assume you are shy and didn't want to seem unlearned in the ways of printmaking by asking too many questions about the relief process. That's okay, I understand. In my magnanimity, I will answer the questions you didn't know you needed to ask.

The first thing I do when making a linocut is make a drawing. That may seem like a dumb thing to say, but it is by no means a given. A lot of folks just go to work on the block and see what happens in the process. Not me; I like a nice, precise drawing done ahead of time. I'm about split evenly between drawing it directly on the block and drawing it on paper first and then transferring it to the block.

Yes, I am a beautiful rooster. You may proceed with freeing me from the block.
Now that my drawing is done I'm ready to start cutting. These are the tools I typically use:

I am used to using those Speedball cutters that you used in high school. But as I was searching through the drawers here in the art room I came across the cutters pictured above. These make the Speedball cutters look like butter knives. These little blades are sharp and make some very accurate, fine line cuts. They are also very comfortable in my hand and are easy to guide.

What a lot of people don't realize is that you move the block around as much as you move your cutting hand. A lot of the time, my hand that holds the cutting tool is stationary while I move, twist and turn the block around to get the delicate lines cut. It may be counterintuitive but it really works. Take my word for it, this is the kind of invaluable information that you are paying the big bucks to read. Ahem.

It looks deceptively finished; but it really needs hours of more back breaking, shoulder-cramping work.

I like to put a very thin layer of ink on the block after I have finished drawing it. This provides a nice contrast between the surface and the areas I have already cut. When putting this layer on it is important not to ink it too heavily so you can still see your image.

And here's the image after all those hours of work:

I will print this block in the morning. Let me say that I have never, ever, ever, never cut the block perfectly on the first go-round. Many times I have cut a block, looked on with smug satisfaction and thought to myself that THIS is the time that I will have done it perfectly. There will be no touch-ups necessary this time. My skills are complete; the student has become the master. But I always have to go back and thin out some lines here, clarify some areas there. And so on. But this time, this time I have taken my time, cut with precision and I feel confident in my heart that I will pull a proof in the morning and everything will be perfect. This time.

Stay tuned to see if I am right.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


So you want to be an artist. If that is so, you'll have to come to terms with the fact that sooner or later, you will be asked to design a tattoo. Family and friends will never be so appreciative of your work as they are when they want a nice original artwork to emblazon their upper arm or inner upper arm or hip or thigh or back or neck (yikes!) or foot or whatever.

I have done four tattoo designs over the years of which one of them has ended up on the person I designed it for. (If you ever see a mushroom/soccer ball mash up on a woman's hip, you'll know my work!) What follows are the designs I did for my nephew. He called me up saying he wanted an anchor design. Maybe with a mermaid. Or something. Here's the mermaid:

Would you care for a beautiful mermaid on your forehead?

He realized he wasn't keen on the mermaid (and I don't think his girlfriend at the time was, either). So we moved on. Now, I like me some ancient Christian symbolism. And boy-o is the anchor an ancient symbol for Christ our hope (spes is Latin for hope). The thought is that Christ is our anchor and we will not be moved or led astray and washed out to sea. And also a dolphin is often associated with this anchor. But not always. Since we live in Florida, I thought a dolphin would be a nice, local touch.

The austere, black and white dolphin of hope appeals to your intellect.

Of course, my dolphin is more the medieval-type dolphin that has scales, frilly fins, a serpentine body and a nice, toothy grin. It's not so scientifically accurate, but it is fun to look at.

Deluxe edition in luxurious color.

And here is the actual tattoo my nephew ended up with:

Similar to my drawings, but sans dolphin or mermaid. Nice!