Saturday, March 2, 2013

Future Faerie Tales of Florida

It's great to be back! I can draw again! ;-)

Though still continuing with hand therapy, I'm finally past some important milestones after my surgeries and back to work.

I felt that I could start again by mid-January, but it still hurt a bit. (I still couldn't even open a jar of spaghetti sauce by that point.) Had some starts and stops (and lots of icing down of my hands every few hours...) but I got back in the saddle and promptly started in on the March 1st Roycroft re-jury deadline hanging over my head until yesterday.

Normally, I submit linocut and intaglio prints to the jury, but after a plate I'd spent almost twenty hours scribing failed to etch properly due to a weak ferric solution, I had to punt — speed up — and go back to my old favorite, pen and ink.

I definitely have to regain my confidence with this medium again; I can tell from the wonky faces & eyes that I need to practice more — and my close vision has certainly deteriorated over the years. I spent half the time either without my glasses or with a magnifier headset on to be able to focus. I also couldn't afford to screw up; no "undo" button here or use of white gouache for correction, as all of these have to go under glass and frame for exhibitions. But I see gradual improvement over the three weeks it took me to do these four drawings.

From my Artist's Statement notes typed up yesterday for the jury:

The four drawings I have submitted are explorations for a new etching series: Future Faery Tales of Florida. These tales are fairy tales that don’t exist, and are a very deliberate homage on the exceptional early 20th c. black & white ink illustrations for children’s books by artists such as Walter Crane, H.J. Ford, Arthur Rackham and William Heath Robinson. Inspired specifically by the B&W pen and ink work that Henry Justice Ford did for Andrew Lang’s “Color” Fairy Books, I wanted to create a series of illustrations that avoided the usual medieval fantasy and Orientalism of most fairy tale books of the turn of the 2oth century. This is the imagery which I love and grew up on and have drawn all of my life, but I wanted to explore something fresh in order to create a new series of etchings that had more mythic imagery than the bird life than I’d been producing up to this point.The imagery incorporates ancient Florida natural history, paleoindian art and design and the modern flora and fauna and sites that I’ve been acquainted with all of my life in Florida as a sailor, diver, hiker, birder and hobby-naturalist. Each drawing is inspired by and hand-lettered with a line taken from a tale that hasn’t actually been written, much as H.J. Ford used a line from a story in Lang’s Fairy Book’s as a scene to illustrate.
An example of Ford's work for the Color Fairy Books can be seen here:

So, here they are. All are 5"x7", drawn with India ink and a crow quill #102 dip pen (with a 00 Rapidograph used for the box frames and lettering) on Strathmore #300 Bristol. (Which I will never, ever use again as it's become vastly inferior as a drawing surface these days...) By the way, I'll be etching all of this as part of a series, with more to come.

1. “Owl-Winged Dawn Greets the Sturgeon Lord” (2013) 5”x7”: A forest spirit, the winged woman finds an enchanted Gulf sturgeon to guide her. Because what’s a fairy tale without an enchanted sturgeon...? This drawing incorporates straightforward palmettos and pines around a north Florida spring. This is the first one I inked in early Feb., and also the one that was the failed etching.

2. “The Escape From the Tower on Iron Mountain” (2013) 5”x7”: A standard theme in fairy tales is to escape from an evil presence holding one captive in a tower, but in this case, the Bok “Singing” Tower may be familiar to Arts & Crafts Movement fans, and the hill it sits on is really called “Iron Mountain”, a geologic oddity made of hematite. The young man’s mount is a fantasy-sized Mesohippus, a precursor to modern horses found in Florida around 28 million years ago.

3. “At last, the Airship from Port Lucaya arrived.” (2013) 5”x7”: A pampered South Florida (South Beach?) Faerie Queen awaits her ride from the Bahamas, accompanied by her tiny assistant, a small overnight chest and a saltwater croc. As one does...

4. “The Frigatebird beckoned Asu and the Prince to follow her.” (2013) 5”x7”: Very likely there are damsels in distress to be rescued on that island, the question is: which one is Asu (meaning “sunset” in ancient Taino) and which one’s the Prince of his People? At the very least, there’s a sentient Atlantic Spotted dolphin and Magnificent Frigatebird in the story.

The attached sketch shows some of my process: on this and on another sheet of vellum that was on the left, where I worked out the geometry of a standing lug rig sail in order to place the rigging and the mainsheet properly. The canoe was actually an 80 yr. old scale model of a birchbark canoe that my great aunt Antoinette Bird made that I photographed propped up at an angle on an kneaded eraser.