Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bundleflower Linocut - Colors 1 & 2

A couple years ago George and I were hiking and we came across these beautiful seed pods.  I loved the shape of the pod and the way the dried seed pods opened to expose the seeds inside.  I took lots of photos and, as usual, uploaded them into my giant folder of plant photos. 

This January I was trying to decide the subject for my next print and I had a vague memory that I had liked a seed pod from that walk.  Sure enough, I found the photo deep in the depths of my computer and decided that this was my next subject.  I didn't even know the name of the plant... although it is common around here.  I emailed my botany friends and they told me it was an Illinois Bundle Flower, Desmanthus illinoensis.  (Thank you Ken for the ID!). The plant is a member of the pea family, has compound leaves that are sensitive to touch, and has hallucinogenic properties.  The shape of the plant also reminded me of a many-eyed feathered cherubim character in a Madeleine L'Engle book I read when I was little.

So that began my almost three-month journey working on a linocut of this plant.  Part of the reason it has been such a long project is that I decided to depict the bundleflower using four colors.  That means you either have to use four plates, or print one color and then continue carving the same plate, then print the next color, and carve again and so on.  That is why it is called a "reduction cut." 

This post will show the first two colors.  Below you can see both the plate and the prints for the cream and burnt orange colors. 

The only sad part about doing a reduction cut is the plate is slowly destroyed along the way.  I think that is why I took so many photos of the plate. 

In the image below you can see my "helper" who either continually tries to hop on my lap while I am carving or paws under the door while I am printing.  Here, he has mercifully taken a five-minute break as he was distracted by a squirrel.

The video below shows me rolling the ink onto the plate.  It is fun to watch the image magically appear as the ink is rolled.

The most exciting moment comes after inking the plate, laying the paper down and burnishing, burnishing, burnishing.  This video shows the big reveal.

I liked the plate at this stage so much I decided to buy more paper to print the plate before I destroyed it by carving more. 

In my next blog post I will share photos of the plate after carving the next color. The final print is available at

Thursday, March 23, 2017


The inevitable finally paperwhites fell over.  A couple weeks ago my neighbors gave me some paperwhite bulbs  (thank you Pat & Terri!).  I dutifully put them in a low, wide vase with some rocks so their base would touch the water.  And sure enough, the next day they had sprouted some serious roots.  And about three days later the green shoots were already about 6 inches long with buds!  If you think about it, it really is quite magical.  And after about 6 or 7 days we had full-on blooms!

But as is always the case with paperwhites the beautiful green shoots outweigh the strength of their impressive root system and they eventually fall over.  I came downstairs and George had take them to the kitchen where they lay on their sides.  I propped them up against the kitchen wall, tied a string around them, and made sure their roots could reach the water.  All day I kept walking by them knowing if I didn't photograph them that day I might as well let go of that idea.

Finally around 3:30 I decided it was now or never.  I brought up my light from the basement and brought the flowers over to the wood bench.  As you can see below I had lots of help from a boy or two.  They LOVE to help me when I have a project like this.  Lots of licking of plants and general getting in the way.

But we had lots of fun playing around with angles and lighting.  And check out these roots!  I think I liked them even more than the flowers!

Today, the flowers are still slumped against the wall in the kitchen looking a little worse for wear after their photo shoot (and cat licking).  But they have given me so much pleasure and reminded me how important it is to take a break from the computer and play for a while.  Thanks again Pat and Terri for such a lovely gift.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Mercantile Library Sketch

Last week I visited the Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati with my friends Roy and Tiffany.  As you  may know, Cincinnati has an incredible public library system and quite a history of breathtaking libraries.  If you have never before seen the photos of the old public library check it out here (jaw-dropping...straight out of Harry Potter!).

I had never been to this library before and it did not disappoint.  It is located on the 11th and 12th floors of the Mercantile Library Building at 414 Walnut.  When you step out of the elevator and walk into the main room you are greeted by beautiful, old, wood magazine and book racks and gorgeous domed windows that span the entire space.  Below you can see the main room and the book stacks at the far end. 

If you visit the library it is worth climbing the old stairs to walk among the stacks.  It is hard to tell from the photo but the floor is made of thick glass panes that are semi-transparent.  If you are scared of heights it might make you feel a little weird.  Plus the whole structure of stacks appears to float, seemingly held up from pipes from the ceiling.

And if that isn't magical enough for you there is a spiral staircase that leads to the 12th floor!

And on the twelfth floor is a GORGEOUS reading room decked out in the arts and crafts style.

I didn't even mention the main draw for many people.  They serve coffee and although I don't drink coffee my friends said it was delicious.

So if you are looking for a nice outing for the day I highly recommend visiting this amazing place.  As I stood looking out from the stacks over the main room I couldn't help but feel like a student at Hogwarts looking for a book on advanced potion making.  I didn't find that book but I did find a nice one for muggles on how to tame dragons.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” ― Stephen King