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!