- Kathy Malony
“Growing Seeds of Creativity”
Welcome to the first Blueberry Hills Art Blog! The creative process, the technical trials and errors, the ‘YES’ moments, the ‘OH NO’ moments, and the playing with possibilities are just some of the areas I’ll explore in this blog. Sometimes I may talk about my garden and our abundant bird population that inhabits our meditation garden. Often you’ll see images of both reflected in my art. As a painter and printmaker I absolutely love color and explore unique color interactions whether using oil paint or soy-based printing ink. I try to challenge myself with different approaches to making my art. And, I love sharing ideas with others, learning from their experiences, and growing through the creative process itself. So, thank you for taking the time to read this entry and let me know what you think. I hope you’ll find a few moments of peace and renewal through the writing and the art.
The creative process is rarely a straight line from start to finish. It’s very much, at least for me, like working in my garden. An idea is planted, nurtured, fed, and sometimes it grows and thrives and becomes a THING! While it’s great when that thing is realized, for me it’s just as much the PROCESS OF BECOMING that’s exciting! By the time it fully blooms there’s a trail of creative energy expended which in itself may sow future seeds of creativity.
I recently returned to printmaking after a 6 month hiatus. In my home studio, I discovered a pile of small wood blocks no bigger than 4”x4” of varying sizes and decided these would be a quick way back into the wonderful world of woodcut printmaking. Little did I suspect where these blocks would take me. I didn’t need to look far for subject matter as it was right outside my studio window. Early September is actually a robust time in the garden with zinnias, vincas, geraniums, morning glories and more all showing off their vibrant flower heads before Autumn comes to claim them. So, I cut some zinnias, plopped them in a vase on my art table, and started drawing.
Now, I have to tell you there are so many ways of starting a woodcut (and I’ve tried most of them) but for this little block I decided to draw the image on paper first using the outline shape of the block itself. Then, once I was satisfied I transferred the drawing to the block. As any relief printmaker will tell you until you carve the wood and create a raised surface to receive the ink the drawing doesn’t exist in the relief world. That’s the tricky part and the challenge. Once you cut it out it’s gone. If you make a “mistake” you either embrace it and make it work or you start again. Remember, it had been awhile since I had carved anything. I had to just play and not be concerned about the end result. It’s that playful spirit that cultivates ideas.
The language of the cut mark is quite unique depending on the tools used. For this little block I basically used everything: single edge razor, u-gauges, v-gauges, and even my trusty dremel. I began to quite literally carve my way back into the world of relief printmaking. The dremel, a small hand held power tool, actually made some really cool textures on the zinnia. I ended up using some of the carved away area edges to add a bit of framing to the 3 flower heads. In many of my prints I do embrace the echoes of the carved edges.
I decided to try another zinnia and created a 2nd block. These two blocks were simply ways of getting back to woodcut, not really destined for any future use until a friend asked if I had any woodcut cards. A seed was planted in my head and started to germinate: a series of small woodcut cards of flowers from my garden!
I continued picking flowers and drawing them in the various shapes of the little blocks. I began to see how important the use of negative space was in the design especially given the small sizes. (Just to be clear...negative space is always important! To paraphrase an often heard saying, ‘it’s the silence between the notes that makes the music’ and in the visual realm creates the rhythm of movement.)
Although I really liked that first zinnia woodcut with 3 flowers I realized I needed to put that aside as I discovered the identity of these small woodcuts. I decided to lose the edges of carved away areas and focus on the positive and negative shapes of the flowers and leaves. I re-designed the zinnias and continued with geraniums, vincas, and then found myself entwined in the morning glories. If you’ve ever grown these delightful gems you’ll understand how daunting they were to carve. I ended up carving 4 blocks before I was satisfied with two! At some point, I’ll revisit the glories on a much larger piece of wood.
Somewhere along the line another idea had taken root and I had begun including the open flower and a budding one. Thankfully, I had already done several of the blocks in this manner but will eventually go back to re-carve those zinnias!
What began as a step back into printmaking with a single block of zinnias has grown into a series called “Gifts from My Garden” that now includes 12 flower woodcuts. In the spring I’ll add some daffodils, grape hyacinth, and lilacs. I may include some woodcuts of the birds, butterflies, and critters that enjoy the garden as well.
While it‘s fun to see the collection of cards that has grown it was even more exciting to cultivate and grow them. As my garden outside begins to wane and be covered with falling leaves another creative possibility has been sown in my head for a larger woodcut print exploring the overlapping shapes and colors of autumn leaves. Now to start cultivating that idea!