The Raven Returns

The print show is up, the ink put away, and the proofs are in the flat file. Actually, that was almost two weeks ago. I haven’t been completely idle, though. The next show at Avanti opens October 10th. That’s just over two weeks away. And again, none of the art for that show is finished. Complicating things a bit is the show I’m doing this weekend, the Emerald Spiral Fall Expo. I will be manning my wife’s booth as well as selling my own work. It will be a fun, long day.

The show in October is themed on Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Curator Wendy Keen said she was hoping to go beyond sugar candy skulls and dancing skeletons and I am happy to oblige. The main piece is one that I thought I had posted work on before, but I can only find the line art.

Knotted Raven 72

The first layers of color were laid down right before a show in May and I started work on painting the knot at the show. Then the 30×30 work started, and the printmaking, and life. So the poor raven sat and waited. But things happen in their own time, and the Day of the Dead show is the right time for my friend here.

The concept for this piece changed significantly since the line art was scanned. In the beginning it was just an exercise in outrageous knot-work. That by itself, however, did not seem to be enough. I tried different ideas for putting the raven in context (though never atop a bust of Pallas) and eventually it chose the Morrigan, a Celtic goddess of death and transformation. I say it chose because it did not entirely feel like my decision. In art school my teachers always told me to ‘Listen to your art. It will tell you what it needs.” This wasn’t so much a matter of my listening, but rather being dragged along by giant talons.

As scavengers, ravens frequented the battlefields of our early history, and were seen by the Celts as the Morrigan incarnate, freeing the souls of the fallen. It is in this guise that this raven spoke to me.RavenProgress1-72

Things have progressed some since this picture was taken. The white space behind the knot-work will be filled in with indigo, a preview of which you can see in the beak, and there’s some subtle coloring to the knot as well. I’ll take more pictures and post as soon as I can.

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The Reduction Print

The last print is done. It will be delivered to the gallery for framing on Tuesday. This one of Slepnir, Odin’s eight legged horse, was a special challenge because I decided to do a reduction print. For those unfamiliar with this technique, please forgive me if I geek out a bit. It is a way to make a multi color relief print using only one block. But it’s also kind of like working without a net because there is little room for error. First you carve away everything you want to appear as white, then print the first color.

This is a scan of the first color. I only touched up lint spots on the scan. The ink coverage was fabulous, and I was surprised.

This is a scan of the first color. I only touched up lint spots on the scan. The ink coverage was fabulous, and I was surprised.

 

The next step is to carve away everything that you want to appear as the first color. In this case, I wanted only the background to be the Naples Yellow-like color, so I carved away all of the background. Well, almost all. There’s some lettering above the horse’s back that I carved around, but it doesn’t show in the next picture because I didn’t ink it during printing.

The second color was straight Dark Yellow over the pale yellow mix of the first run. If you look closely you can see that the ink coverage is a little spotty, but not too bad.

The second color was straight Dark Yellow over the pale yellow mix of the first run. If you look closely you can see that the ink coverage is a little spotty, but not too bad.

 

Lastly, I carved away everything I wanted to stay as the dark yellow. I then printed the third color, a mixed dark brown. The coverage on the final run was the toughest. There was either not enough ink, or the ink was too stiff, or not enough pressure, or too much ink and it plugged up the small spaces, but no matter what, I couldn’t get a good clean impression. Again, I don’t think it’s too bad and the majority of the prints will be useable, but it was exasperating.

The final print showing the lettering (runes) that I avoided in the second run.

The final print showing the lettering (runes) that I avoided in the second run.

 

And now a bit of a test. I took some video of the printing process and will attempt to post it here. I’m just following directions on how to post this, I really have no idea what I’m doing, so I hope it actually works.

 

All this and Tom Waits on the radio. Yeah. Life is good.

Tyr, Fenrir, and the Norns

Most people wouldn’t have a clue as to what the title of this post refers to. Even if they were given the hint ‘mythology’. That’s because the mythology we are usually taught in school (if at all) is from the Egyptian era, and/or from Greece and Rome. The mythology I’m working with here is Norse and while there may be some similarities (how many cultures have a war god[dess] or a love god[dess], etc.) the stories are very different and rich with symbolism.

The background color block for the Norns print. I carved the line work first, then made a print using a lot of ink. I then transferred that print to this block to use as a guide. I only had to make minor adjustments in the carving after the first proof.

The background color block for the Norns print. I carved the line work first, then made a print using a lot of ink. I then transferred that print to this block to use as a guide. I only had to make minor adjustments in the carving after the first proof.

 

The Norns are a trio of goddesses conceptually aligned with the Greek Fates and I’ve depicted them in a similar fashion. Urd, what has become, is spinning the yarn of our existence. It is what we are. Verdandi, what will become, is measuring out the yarn. This is not a fatalistic viewpoint, but one of potential. She simply measures and our actions guide her hands. Skuld, what should become, cuts the yarn. Again, she does not decide our fate. It is up to us to determine how to use the time we have.

The first print run of the Norns. I used a mix of dark yellow and white to come up with a Naples Yellow-like color.

The first print run of the Norns. I used a mix of dark yellow and white to come up with a Naples Yellow-like color. You can see that the background isn’t a solid color, but has a Norse scrolly design that I hope reflects the roots of Yggdrasill, where the Norns live.

 

The Norns, who live at a well among the roots of Yggdrasill, the Norse World Tree, are also said to weave these threads into a tapestry and to carve the runes for peoples lives into Yggdrasill’s trunk.

The Norns with the black line work on top of the yellow.

The Norns with the black line work on top of the yellow.

 

Fenrir was a giant wolf and one of the sons of Loki, the god of transformation, trickery, and chaos.

The block for Tyr and Fenrir, inked and sitting in my makeshift printing frame. Apologies for the washed out pic.

The block for Tyr and Fenrir, inked and sitting in my makeshift printing frame. Apologies for the washed out pic.

 

It was foretold that Fenrir would slay Odin at Ragnarok, the final battle. So the gods tried to trick Fenrir into being bound by magic cords, saying that they were only testing the strength of the cords, and they would release him as soon as the cords were tested. Fenrir, who was no fool, didn’t trust the gods.

 

The first print, an artist's proof, to make sure everything looks OK. The carving was fine, but we decided to lighten up the brown.

The first print, an artist’s proof, to make sure everything looks OK. The carving was fine, but we decided to lighten up the brown. It also let me know how much pressure I needed to use to get a clean print. (A lot.)

 

So he asked for one of them to put their hand in his mouth as surety of his release. Only Tyr, the great warrior, was willing to do this, knowing full well that Fenrir would not be released.  For this, he lost his right hand, and he is considered to be the embodiment of willing sacrifice.

 

A few of the prints in this run. You probably can't see the difference in the ink color, but it really was an improvement.

A few of the prints in this run. You probably can’t see the difference in the ink color, but it really was an improvement.

 

Heavy stuff, huh? Here’s a sneak peek at the next block to lighten the mood. The sketches for it are under all the shavings. It will be of Slepnir, Odin’s eight legged horse, Because who wouldn’t want one of those?

 

You can see a hoof and three of Slepnir's eight legs.

You can see a hoof and three of Slepnir’s eight legs.

Can We See A Pattern Here?

August was busy. Get the new web-site operational. Create art and a story for a small show. Get prints and framing for another small show. Both of those flew by. Sorry for not announcing them. Oh yes. There’s also the next show at Avanti, a printmaking extravaganza. “Would you like to be in it?” they asked. “Sure! Why not.” I replied.

I’ve done printmaking in the past, mumbldy-mumble years ago, and I remember it being very freeing as a technique, but not without its challenges. And because I seem to be genetically disinclined to do things the easy way, I decided to go back to my Norse roots and take a look at the myths and legends from that side of my family.

First up were Hugin and Munin, Odin’s ravens. He would send them out across the land (and worlds) and they would report back to him what all they had seen. I laid the designs down quickly enough, but there they sat.

And now for a change of perspective…

Hello to all reading this blog, I’m Levi Cain; Kevin’s son & a recent graduate of high school. For all ya’ll wondering why I’m writing the remainder of his blogpost, it’s kinda simple; the art opening my dad mentioned previously is in less than twelve days, and he doesn’t have any finished pieces for it… yet. (Lets not mention the fact that they will need to be framed as well, shall we?)

As I sit here writing this he is calmly working away at solving this current issue and panicking as well. A little bit of an oxymoron, I know, but it’s the truth. The work itself, despite a certain lack of completion, is coming along quite nicely.

Here’s the WIP of the print block for Munin:

MuninProcess72

The show opening for Avanti will be on Friday the 12th of this month at 6:00 PM.

One More Thing…

My dad has finally gotten his website (with store!) up and running. Granted, it’s still in the beta phase right now, so feel free to contact him should you be encountering any problems with it.
The Link:
kevinecain.com