I’ve moved my operation…

to Squarespace.  Here’s the link and a teaser for my new post about recent work in the studio.  I hope you’ll join me over at Squarespace and subscribe to my blog for news and updates.

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Recent work: exploring black-line woodcuts

April 29, 2015

In March, Philadelphia artist Bill Brookover gave a presentation at the Print and Picture Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia.  Bill has been doing research in the collections and is helping to raise the visibility of the holdings there.  He assembled a group of lithographs by Arthur Flory and woodcuts by Abraham Hankins, both active mid-twentieth century, to highlight the oeuvre of these two Philadelphia printmakers.  Among the artwork on display was this black-line relief print by Abraham Hankins.  See More:  click here

See you there!

Goodbye Blue

Advice to winter travelers in Iceland: keep up with the weather reports, have a car with 4wd/ studded tires, and have a plan B!  After a big blizzard in the North, I scrambled to re-organize my last few days in Iceland.  I had hoped to drive to Reykjavik and spend my last two days at the National Library and visit the studios of the Icelandic Printmaking Association.  It was not to be, Mother Nature had other plans, and that trumps everything.  The road out of Olafsfjordur was impassible for 2 days, and I had serious doubts about driving through some long mountainous passes on route 1, the ring road around the island.  So plan B: swim some laps and try to relax.  In the end I decided to leave my car in the North, in Akureyri, and fly South on the day of my international departure from Keflavik, fingers crossed that the weather would hold.

On the up side, my drive to Akureyri, an hour away from Olafsfjordur, was uneventful.  At times, though, the light was so spectacular that I thought I would go off the road.  Here is the light at mid-day, between 12:00 noon and 1:30 on December 12.  Then from 2:30pm and on, once again, the descent into blueness, deeper and deeper until dark.  I am going to miss the blueness.

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My last 10 days or so at Listhus were dedicated to my woodcuts.  These are the three that I made, all editioned, and the blocks cancelled so I won’t have to carry them home.


Presence, 13″ x 9″, edition of 6



Olafsfjordur, 13″ x 9″, edition of 15IMG_8207 Siglufjordur, 9″ x 5″, edition of 13






Painting, meet Print. Print, meet Painting.

Here are a few more paintings I have been working on, all around 16 x 20. I am still using Golden Open acrylics, which I like a lot.  The colors are pure and rich, and they really do stay “open” and workable for days.IMG_7421

I see this group of paintings as a direct continuation of the woodcut Saga series. This acrylic painting of a mountain from early 2014… IMG_4625led to the creation of the woodcut Saga series…DSC_0022

And now I am here…


And so things are coming full circle.  In this series I am working the paint layers, and cutting through in a very physical way.   Another link back to the woodcuts I was making just before this trip to Iceland.

My approach to painting has changed so much in the past year.  It all began at Gullkistan, where I arrived with the intention of shaking off old habits, old approaches to painting that no longer felt right. Now my printmaking is influencing my painting, and my painting and my approach to color is influencing my prints.  IMG_7583It’s an old story, I know, the artist’s path of discovery.  But for me it’s as fresh and exciting as this new day!

Whiteness? Brightness!

I am continually puzzling to understand the color of the snow.  In good weather the sun shines on Olafsfjorður for a few hours each day, technically from 10:00 am to 4:00pm, perceptibly shorter every day.   But the light precedes sunrise and continues long after sun down.  The snowy mountains surrounding the town are like giant reflectors that bounce the light around, illuminating the opposing mountainsides with a mysterious glow.  The winter light up North here is weird and beautiful… and magical… and inspiring.

I have been feeling my way along, painting lots, but floundering around to make sense of all this atmosphere.   I am pretty excited about a couple of paintings in progress.  They might not survive tomorrow’s assault, but here they are in their current state:

Siglufjorður, 16 x 20IMG_7042


Across the lake, 16 x 20







Finding my “place”

Now I am in Olafsfjordur, Iceland, beginning my 6 week residency at Listhus.  I arrived four days ago in the pouring rain, everything mysterious and shrouded.  The day after, the town and landscape emerged and this is what I saw:


The landscape is beautiful, the mountains are impressive, white, towering above the town and casting interesting shadows.

My mission here is to “go deeper” into the Icelandic landscape, and how I experience this place. Everything tugs and pulls in different directions, exciting and unknown, every road a temptation.  Instead of chasing mountains, I think I’d be well served to sit still and see what comes into focus, right here, right now.

This is the morning light, 8:45 am on a rainy morning:



I did 3 quick sketches “9:05”, “9:20”, and “9:35”:

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I end each day with a swim in the community pool, outside, with clouds of steam rising off the surface and billowing away.  Mountains are visible on both sides as I swim length after length.  My mission is to absorb the influence of this place, to be patient with myself, and to work without censoring.  Something will happen.



After a whirlwind end of summer in Philly, I am finally here.  I built my year around the next two months in Iceland, mid-October to mid-December, to be surrounded by beautiful landscape, friendly people and inspiration around every corner.

Before leaving Philly I made an appointment to visit the collections at the Arni Magnusson Institute on the day of my arrival.  I was so humbled by my visit. I was in the presence of the earliest, the ur-manuscripts of Iceland.  I felt I had not yet earned my access to these precious documents that embody the most profound essence of Icelandic culture. You can’t blame me for gravitating to the “later” manuscripts as being just a tad more accessible.

But this is what I discovered among the books that Conservator Hersteinn Brynjolfsson and Dr. Margrét Eggertsdóttir had very kindly arranged for me to see:

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Image courtesy of the Arni Magnusson Institute, taken with my iPhone.

Pretty cool little man/god/beast from a manuscript that was written out in about 1644, from what I can gather. In a sleep-deprived haze, my notes got a bit scrambled. But looking closer at the catalogue record, and using Google translate, I captured this tidbit of information: “The script focuses on medieval literature, of transcendental beings, natural wonders of Iceland, rocks and various superstitions connected. Excerpts from medieval geography, among others. ”

The most amazing thing, though, is that leafing through a different manuscript book, look what I found.  Totally random.  I didn’t even ask to see this, it was just nearby.

Written out in 1755, it is clearly referencing the same source.

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Image courtesy of the Arni Magnusson Institute, taken with my iPhone

Can anyone out there tell me something more about these figures?  Here are links back the records in the online catalogue, quite an amazing resource if you get to browsing around:

1st image: http://handrit.is/en/manuscript/view/is/AM04-0727-II

2nd image: http://handrit.is/is/manuscript/view/JS08-0404

Mission accomplished!

My exhibit NORTH of HERE opened this weekend in Philadelphia.  The weather cooperated pretty well, and I had a steady stream of visitors all weekend long.  Thanks to everyone who showed up, and for all the good wishes coming from those who were there in spirit!  Here are a few shots of the installation, minus the crowds, because I was too distracted to take any pics during the events.  The exhibit will stay up until November 9.  If you are in Philadelphia I hope you’ll stop by Twenty-two Gallery for a close up view of my new work.IMG_6312.

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Now it is time to shift gears.  I am already mostly packed for my residency at Listhus in North Iceland.  My next blog post will be from Reykjavik.  The first stop on my 2 month itinerary will be a visit to  The Arni Magnusson Institute for Icelandic Studies, a treasure trove of early Icelandic manuscripts.  Stay tuned!

Conservator me

I’m doing a little cross-pollination between my selves, these days.  Here’s a blog post I wrote for the Library Company of Philadelphia, some musings on woodcuts, and a sample of some “day-to-day” inspiration.  The influence of the rare book collection at the Library Company on me is subtle and deep, absorbed through 25+ years of hands-on work at the bench.  Click here for a picture of my work bench from a previous post.

Finding a hidden gem, a woodcut or engraving inside the covers of the books is always a reason to stop, look and share with my coworkers.  As I write in the Library Company blog “Beyond the Reading Room”, woodcuts speak in a timeless language.

ak stud sm crop

John G Hurtin, Baronet, will cover this season (New York State, s.n., 1800) The gouge marks in the ground beneath the figures’ feet show the carver’s bold approach. Photo courtesy of The Library Company of Philadelphia.

Light from Dark: woodcuts old and new

Discover another gem while you’re at it, click here for information about where I work, the Library Company of Philadelphia.  It’s ONLY a living breathing legacy, founded by our beloved Benjamin Franklin in 1731.  



Printmaking Me

My artistic process has undergone some major shifts recently. I’ve documented many of these breakthroughs here in this blog: working larger, stepping back from direct observation to allow my inner vision a larger role.   It has been a big year.

As I continue to refine my vision and expression, I’ve been making color prints.  This is another new direction for me, and It involves a lot of experimenting.  But even with lots of experience and confidence, the process of developing a print is like driving on a road with blind curves.  I am very excited about where it is going.

So after a long, somewhat muted period, Printmaking Me is discovering an amplified voice.  Painting Me is happy to have the volume turned up.


And actually, now it looks like this.  I printed the band of rocks a second time, with a layer of black.



About twenty-five color woodcuts and monoprints will be featured in my upcoming exhibit “North of Here” at 22 Gallery in Philadelphia.  Stay tuned for more info, I’m already shifting gears, cleaning up the studio and getting ready to bring work to the framers.

Making Prints

My solo show at 22 Gallery in Philadelphia will open in October, only 2 months from now.  Needless to say, I am busy working on pieces for the show.  In the winter I made a series 2-color woodcuts, and I finally printed the editions (printing 5 of each) this weekend.  The small bone tool that you see laying on the print is my favorite hand-printing tool.  I have been using this same bone folder for printing since I first started printing woodcuts by hand, in 1980.


Here’s how they look drying on the wall of my basement print studio:




And here’s a new woodcut with some nice rich color.  Looks familiar?  It’s the same composition as as stencil print/monoprint I did a month or so ago, for a series that I’m calling Saga.