Friday, May 29, 2015

The River another small block carved by your fearless instigator and Test Block report

The River

There is something about watching a river roll by that is calming and peace-giving like no other experience, except maybe watching the ocean. I could engage in either for hours. But while the ocean ripples back and forth, the river goes by washing away fear and doubt and everything wrong, and offering new fresh water with every second passed. Much like time, and life. The sound itself is constant, soothing, trickle or roar it fills me with peace leaving no room for anything but a clean and pure tranquility.
And when speaking of rivers, the Colorado is first in my heart. I have been to many places in and around this awesome gift of nature and none too many, I hope to see many more.
"The River" is my third block for the Peace Puzzle.

The River, peace puzzle contribution by Maria Arango Diener

Test Block

A while back I reported I would be carving a block to test the integrity of the MDF/cherry veneer plywood that I purchased for the Peace Puzzle. Well here it is! The carving was of the background image and included some very thin lines, curves and other possible trouble spots. 
I covered the entire thing with polyurethane to give the MDF (medium density fiberboard) a sealant and also "glue" the edges of the carved veneer to the surrounding MDF support. This way the roller, covered with sticky ink, would hopefully not break up the bond between support and veneer and printing would go smoothly.
Test block with polyurethane ready to be printed on my press bed

Close up, yummy finish huh?!

I am pleased with the results although I did lose a tiny piece of line in the initial roll of ink. I still don't have any idea where it came from. Also, I tested some "repairs" done with wood glue and all held up very well. Additionally, the edges of the block seemed to be just fine with having the press roller on and off without crumbling or breaking. 

I will post on Facebook later this weekend and have a giveaway! I want some young budding artists to color some of these so if you are a teacher, get ready to message me. I will give away 5 prints to be colored by 5 different groups of youngsters. No charge, just for fun, no need to return the print. Just take a picture of the result and I will post on my Facebook page.
A day's work, about 15 prints hangin' out

Peace Puzzle test block image
20 x 36 inches paper size
12 x 32 inches image size
Ready for coloring!

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Unbelievable! More critters big and small, okay mostly small

 Two more catches me up!

I finished carving Karen Wheeler's piece. She's an artist who painstakingly draws tiny stroke by tiny stroke, building up the images in a stroke-pointilistic kind of way. Check out her website sometime:
So I carved her drawn piece tiny stroke by tiny stroke with my 1mm chisels. It was quite fun, resembling a detailed wood engraving.

And yesterday I received Michele Unger's contribution, a nicely done bird with a deep meaning. Interesting how some artists choose to do something simple and let the shape of the wood inspire the image. Well done!

Michele R. Unger

Edmonds, WA 

Trying to grasp onto an image for peace is like trying to photograph a bird in flight---elusive.  So I chose a bird as my image and carved it upside down.  When a flag is raised upside down it is a sign of distress so when an image of peace is printed upside down it is a cry for change, to make peace not so elusive, but common.  How wonderful a world it would be if peace were the norm.  Think of all the free time we might have to solve our common problems, rather than wasting time hating our differences.

Karen Wheeler
Henderson, NV

Animals inspire me beyond words. My definition of Peace is expressed by showing how two animals of different size and species can lay down together and sleep. I have chosen a domestic house cat and a parakeet lying in peaceful slumber even though the cat is a natural predator to the bird. The larger cat is happy to be the protector of the smaller bird in this instance. There is no fear here because the two are friends and love each other so much that their only desire is to remain close to one another in peace.
Karen's sketch on the block

Progression of carving with the final Karen Wheeler
piece for the Peace Puzzle

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Four more makes twenty-eight pieces of peace

Enjoy the latest!

Birds, bunnies and other critters seem to be a recurring symbol for peace, as are children. Interesting! Maybe we should have our world leaders rescue pets and volunteer in orphanages to make them mellower and more peaceful, what do you think?! Brilliant, I say...

Wendy Morris
Spokane Washington USA

Nancy Nastari
Brasil - Guaruja

The essence of the nature of birds is the freedom to fly, are related to beauty and tranquility of living. No matter how the day dawns, they are always singing, express unity, joy and pleasant moments. His singing conveys peace and your flight is connecting the earth and heavenly plans!

Martha Knox Philadelphia Pennsylvania USA

"I changed my mind about a dozen times on what to draw on my block. The first things that came to mind were symbols of peace, but that was too obvious. Then I thought about figures from history famous for working toward peace, but that felt too specific for a big, collaborative project. Then I started thinking about images from nature, such as maybe a tortoise, elephant, or owl, that are associated with patience and wisdom. But nothing I came up with really resonated with my personally.
Finally, I realized that I'd completely over-thought the whole thing and felt stuck. So I emptied my head and asked myself when in my own life do I feel most at peace. And the answer was when I'm reading to my girls before bedtime.
Now as I was drawing and carving, I didn't exactly consider how this block will be oriented when it is put back into the larger piece. I simply came up with an image that fit the way it fit. So the girls will be upsidedown in the final piece. But I'm okay with that because the overall design for the puzzle is very fluid and it seems as if things are being gently blown all around the composition. And after all, Marc Chagall never had a problem with people's heads being upsidedown! "

Caroline Maddison
Talybont.  Wales. UK

Wales is steeped in old folklore, legends and some wonderful dramatic landscapes and wildlife.
One such legend that engaged me was of St Melangell, the welsh patron saint of hares. The story of Melangell came about in the 7th century.
 Brochwell, the Prince of Powys was hunting and pursuing a hare, the hare took refuge under Melangell`s cloak. The prince`s hounds stopped in their tracks, turned and fled. The Prince was so moved by her courage that he gave her the valley as a place of sanctuary. Melangell had a church built on that very spot and became Abbess of a small religious community. She was buried there and the church today is a place of pilgrimage.
As this place is not far from where I live, I decided to visit .I am not a particularly religious person but as soon as I arrived, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and spirituality. It was beyond words and is an experience that has stayed with me.
I feel honoured to be part of this world wide collaboration with such a powerful and positive theme. My personal experience of peace at St Melangell`s church and my carving of the hare is my small contribution to this project.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

More peace coming your way

Peace and Alegria

If I would have known how soothing it is to write peace and say Alegria (happiness) on a daily basis, I would have undertaken this theme a long time ago. Alegria, of course, is my newly found puppy. When I first saw her upon returning from my daily walk, she was covered in trash and lay listless against a chain-link fence in a deserted lot. I nearly headed home to grab a shovel when the tiny dirty pile of trash started wagging its tail. The rest is pupstory!

Trivia over, here are four more images, with bonus puppy. Connie Brewer, the first block shown below, had the presence of mind to include a snack for pup and mom, thanks Connie! Vicki and Sarah win the award for best-wrapped blocks so far, very attractive! And Bea Gold, my friend, always with a knack for depicting the sweetest child; thanks for the goodies!

Connie Brewer
Gillette, Wyoming US

My puzzle piece is centered on my Corgis and the peace they bring me. Nothing better than playing fetch with the Corgis after a  long day at work. Peace, Connie Brewer (and Max & Merlin, the Corgis)

Vicki LoSasso and Sarah Chvilicek
Reno Nevada USA

Bea Gold
California USA

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Catching up on PEACE!

Moving on

Having successfully completed my first festival since 2008 (wow, life happens, huh!?) I'm right back in the thrills of welcoming new pieces of the Peace Puzzle. Really didn't take me as long as it used to to recover, must be the awesome energy I got from my collectors at the festival. I am already thinking about the next gig. Have to get into inventory/framing mind but not quite yet!

Utah Arts Festival
June 25-28
Library Square & Washington Square, 200 E 400 S
Salt Lake City Utah

Peace offerings

Here are three of the latest arrivals:

Daryl DePry

Las Vegas, NV

Junanne Peck

Fort Worth, TX

I chose to carve the face of a woman as I believe it is going to take the feminine energy to heal the world and bring about peace.

Rebecca Child Crediton, Devon, UK.

My piece of this jigsaw is the head of a giant reclining Buddha in Polonnarawa, Sri Lanka, that I first visited in 1999. It was carved in the 12th century and is part of Gal Vihara, a rock temple with four images of the Buddha. The reclining image is said to represent that of the Buddha after attaining nirvana and then death.  The pose and particularly the face seems to me to be an image of absolute peace. 

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On humans and nature

A Maria Sampler

I was quietly sitting in my booth once, staying well out of the way of browsers so that they may enjoy looking at art without interruptions, when I overheard "she needs to stick to landscapes, I mean the figure stuff is nice but a little weird, the landscapes are really nice."
I smiled from my little corner and opted for silence as response. Later one of my figurative works, a rather "weird" one, won best of show.
Bajo la Sombra

Artists are many things, feel many things, share many things. We are told to develop a "style" to keep our work "consistent" and to "stick to what works". And yet creativity and pure heart take us down so many roads...
After almost 20 years of seriously making art, I "do" both landscapes and figures. I simply can't decide why I should decide. 
Just Walk With Me

Some of the work I like best incorporates both figures and nature. They are both beautiful and a little bit magic for me, we are both nature and human. Trees and tendons, branches and muscles, vast views and bare skin, mountains and body curves, shapes I can touch and feel with my mind and caress with my eyes. 
Light Hunter
Light always present illuminating everything. Feelings and music captured with an image, dances and movement and energy swirling through the wind, old scarred trees telling stories, young blooms entering life, loving, hoping. Figures bare as trees, stripped of symbols, status and masks, showing the beauty and magic of the human form, the nature in human.
After the Fire

That's my art.
Like a Drunken Bee
Spirit Wind

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Change of pace, the festival life calling my name


Art festivals are the best way for this artist to connect with the largest audience, teach the world about woodcuts, have a bunch of fun, sell some art, and bring forth that elusive creature we call "the extroverted Maria," all concentrated in one chaotic exhausting weekend.
Generally work starts two or three weeks in advance, inventory artwork, check display equipment, panic, memorize festival map, mat, frame, price, pack and go! Since I have not done festivals in a long while, I'm panicking more than usual but it's all coming back to me quickly. I did, after all, write a book full of check-lists on how to sell work in art festivals (no, really!) so I have a refresher course handy on my shelves.


After a quick check on the equipment, just in case I had to order anything or one of my tent legs was missing (funny story behind that statement), I resigned myself to the task of matting and framing my happy woodcuts.
Why not hire a framer? Cost! 16 x 20 inch frame complete costs around $45, framer charges around $160+. Impossible to make a profit. Besides, with a few pieces of good equipment and some practice, practice, practice, framing is easy.

Here we go...first inventory, then get to cutting. I built some box containers to easily and safely transport my artworks across the country, they are on wheels for easy hauling. I reserve a work table and area for framing (and shipping), which makes everything more efficient. I have to confess I'm an efficiency freak! but anything you do more than two or three times needs to be efficient or time gets wasted...and time is so so precious.
Inventory of any existing framed and matted works

I built these wooden boxes on wheels to carry my works
safely across the country

The framing table, ready for action

Every work gets a Certificate of Authenticity, signed and
with an explanation of the woodcut process

Mats cut, ready to assemble

"Into the Canyon" one of my fav works and hiking places
in Zion National Park

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Test block carving and bonus studio puppy

Test Block

I mentioned in some earlier post that one of my "jobs" as a project instigator is to make sure everyone receives their prints back and that the prints are worthy of having. 
Having an 8-panel print is a bit scary because the cherry plywood blocks, as any other wood block, softens after a couple of hundred prints. This time I will need the blocks to yield as many prints as they will give, 160 plus slop/trial proofs. That's getting awfully close to the life of the block limit.

Same design as the Peace Puzzle in 12 x 30 inch test block
Adding to that bit of nervousness, this batch of cherry plywood came with an under-layer of MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard, cheap wood-like stuff). Cool stuff, carves nicely but a bit soft for my taste as it dents easier than standard cherry plywood with all wood under-layers. 

So! with all that in mind, I decided to carve a test block in order to have something to abuse prior to actual printing of the Peace Puzzle blocks. I plan on being truly rough with the poor thing and carved a variety of detail, open lines, flat areas and other variations to see how each will hold up under my mightiest ink roller and the pressure of the press. I have a couple of sealers in mind that will harden the surface to preserve details and want to test them out.

Here we go!

Inked up, oiled up and ready to carve

Ahhhh, beautiful if I may say so myself

The promised bonus studio puppy, an unexpected find in the desert
upon returning from my walk.
For all kinds of puppy nonsense, go to my Facebook profile
Fortunately for carving's sake, she sleeps a lot

More progress

Dove is looking good, about half-way done

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