Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Very Big Dragon!

Soga Shōhaku, Dragon and Clouds (Un ryu- zu), Japanese, Edo period, 1763.

Unveiled last week at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, Shōhaku's dragon had long been under wraps as it received extensive conservation and repair, including custom-made wooden lattice cores with multiple layers of paper on each side.

Extraordinary in person, the panels extend to a full 35' length despite two missing and long lost to history. The missing panels would have been just to the right of the dragons face in the picture above. 

The dragon's face panel.

The piece dominates its room at the MFA; the lights low. All the better to imagine that it originally was inside a temple. Painted with ink, the piece while looking very graphic, is actually very nuanced with greys, giving the work a three dimensional feel.

 A dragon's claw

Interestingly, the curators descriptions include mention of Soga Shōhaku's penchant for painting in a wild style fueled by copious amounts of alcohol. They point to areas such in the claw area above where it seems that large rags have been used to smear background. I'm not sure how much is lore or exaggeration, but much of the power does come from the tension of tightly controlled areas playing off of deft but loose handling of the ink. Indeed there is much splattering in the composition.

Panel with clouds.

The end panel above is typical of the wet on wet, very abstract handling of the clouds. Take away that claw and it's a close step to imaging a Pat Steir painting.  Two scrolls and a powerful two panel ink drawing of a hawk round out this outstanding look into Soga Shōhaku's work.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Life is a Bowl of Cherries

Bowl of Cherries_ woodcut_©William Evertson 2014

The latest piece to be completed in the studio is my woodblock, "Bowl of Cherries". The work evolved over several weeks and preliminary sketches and pastels.  Overall the piece evolved from the phrase Life is a bowl of cherries, which obviously is often used to mean the opposite. "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries" was the title of a song by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, sung by Ethel Merman in Scandals (1931).
Life is just a bowl of cherries; 
Don't make it serious; 
Life's too mysterious. 
You work, you save, you worry so, 
But you can't take your dough when you go, go, go. 
So keep repeating it's the berries; 
The strongest oak must fall. 
The sweet things in life 
To you were just loaned, 
So how can you lose what you've never owned? 
Life is just a bowl of cherries, 
So live and laugh at it all.   

My particular gripe lately has been the dismal state of our broadcast news. Currently our news seems to be all gloss and no substance, or sensationalized, or false equivalents, or formatted with agenda.....and heavily seasoned with bowl of cherry thoughts.

Life is a Bowl of Cherries. Protect Yourself with Essential Geometries  ©William Evertson 2014

My first work on this topic was a pastel. I gave it the slightly longer title of "Life is a Bowl of Cherries. Protect Yourself with Essential Geometries." Essential geometries and what they would mean is deliberately left to the viewer because I have no answers what will finally push us to more compassion.

When I decided to move this idea to the woodcut format I also wanted to simplify and refine the visual.  My pastel was a nice complex piece and a stand alone work. For the graphic version I wanted to further distill elements that made up the idea.

Pencil sketch with watercolor overlay

  Inking the sketch

Carving the key block

First print pulled from key block

Originating from the same place as the pastel but very different look.