The Ducklings Come to Hollins

For the 3rd year I have been creating and placing character cutouts around the campus of Hollins University during the summer term.

Each summer it is joy to choose which classic children’s book characters will be immortalized. Last year I chose to focus on female characters.

This year the ducklings marched onto campus. To make them I first looked up reference from the original book, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.

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The duckings were a LITTLE too long to include them all on my corrugated plastic material,  which is only 40″ wide, so I had to edit a few out.

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Then I cut out the whole flock with a sharp exacto knife, sprayed the material with primer and painted them with acrylics.

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Robert McCloskey illustrated Make Way for Ducklings using lithographs. I tried to reproduce this and make it look as close to the original art as possible using only paint brushes.

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Joining the ducklings on campus were Horton from Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss.

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Peter from Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats

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The Princess and the Dragon from The Paperbag Princess, written by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko

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Yoko from Yoko’s Paper Cranes by Rosemary Wells

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Paddington Bear by Michael Bond and Peggy Fortnum

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and finally, School, from School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson

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Making my ‘Rufus in the Tall Grass’ print, with the help of three experts.

I’ve been admiring the work of printmakers since I was a small girl and this summer’s project emulates three people whose work has influenced me. I’ve been collecting samples of the work of Andrea Lauren lately. She does small, two color prints using two separate blocks.

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Andrea uses two separate blocks and prints one over the other.

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You could cut a block into more pieces as well and ink each piece separately. That’s what Woody Jackson did early in his career when he started cutting up zinc etching plates, inking each piece, and putting them back together like puzzles before printing.

I’ve loved Mary Azarian’s work since I was a teenager. Her hand-colored woodcuts of Vermont scenes and her illustrated books influenced my illustration work enormously.

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I am teaching at Hollins University again this summer-this time I designed a course called Printmaking for Illustration. To make a sample for my students I used all three of my printmaking idols as inspiration.

My new puppy Rufus has a foxy look similar to Andrea’s print, so I chose one of the dozens of reference photos I have and started designing my own two color linocut.

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I decided to use one block and cut it apart into two pieces-Woody Jackson style-right around Rufus. That made getting perfect registration a breeze.

 

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I start by coating the “inside” cut-out of Rufus in black ink with a rubber brayer.

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Then I mixed a yellow and a dark green and used them both to ink the grasses on the “outside” block. Sometimes the two colors mixed on the brayer, but I didn’t care-I wanted each print to be one of a kind.

I placed both parts of the inked up block into a custom cut cardboard jig, or frame, to hold them steady, then laid my paper on top.

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To make a print I’m merely rubbing the back of the paper firmly with an ordinary wooden spoon. I keep it fairly parallel to the paper so that it presses evenly and doesn’t rip this delicate sheet.

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I made a small edition of 20 prints using 2 colors of oil based ink.

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When these are dry I’ll hand color each one with watercolors, making them truly one of a kind, just like Mary Azarian does.

Three printmakers-four counting me-all different but with so much in common!

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Happy New Year, Roosters!

2017 is the Chinese Year of the  Rooster.

When I lived in San Francisco-a very Asian city, Chinese  New Year was a festive and LOUD time of year: think firecrackers, bell ringing, lion dances and exotic parades.

This is a Fire Rooster year. Fire Roosters are traditionally trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work. The other types are Wood Roosters, Earth Roosters, Gold Roosters and Water Roosters.

On the whole, Roosters are active, amusing, popular, healthy, outspoken, honest, loyal, talkative and charming. Many of my dearest friends are Fire Roosters.

Happy New Year, Roosters-

Cockadoodle~Doo!

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a Fire Rooster, painted with gouache on paper

Since Roosters are also chickens, this post will celebrate these fascinating and delicious animals-among my very favorite to observe and draw.

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A hen and rooster painted with gouache on brown paper

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rooster painted with gouache on paper

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a variety of poultry breeds drawn in colored pencil on brown paper

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Buff Laced Bantam Rooster painted in gouache on paper

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“Bless each wren, each rooster and hen” painted in gouache on black gesso. From the book: Home Sweet Home by Jean Marzollo and Ashley Wolff

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Taking to the Ice

In the summer my front yard is a huge body of water, a playground for boats, swimmers and fishermen.

In the winter that water gets a hard shell of ice and becomes an entirely different playground, a brand new piece of “land” where we can walk, skate, and even drive snowmobiles and pickup trucks. Fishermen set up their shanties, forming cozy little villages.

As children we skated here with our mom and dog Lumpy.

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When I illustrated my 1st book in 1983 I remembered times spent skating with my dog.

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Cardinals in February from A Year of Birds by Ashley Wolff

During this Christmas break we got some lovely light snow and my sister and I set out to make this our new front yard.

We walked across the lake, following coyote tracks, and noticing where a bird landed, leaving wing and tail marks in the snow.

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We made snow angels ,

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built a buxom snow maiden,

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did donuts,

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drank cocktails,

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and lost our balance!

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Happy New Year.

Keep the wine handy.

We’re going to need it!

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We Are All Book Lovers

I heard a radio commentary this morning. It was about searching for good news in a dark time. The commentator, a former journalist, looked in all the usual places, but finally found her cheering thought in a Pew Research Center story about reading.

73% of Americans read a book this year! And they actually seem to prefer reading on paper.

I found cheer in that too, and continued work on my Baby Bear Reads a Book ornament series.

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As with other multiple image projects like summer postcards, I grid my paper with painter’s tape. This time I measured out small 1 3/8″ x 2″ rectangles and drew Baby Bear reading a big, fat book in each opening.

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Then I paint them-layer by layer, one by one.

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Each one is kind-of the same and one of a kind.

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Then I cut the sheets up,

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Stick them in little silver frames

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And hang them from the evergreen tree.

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I’ve made a few extras and, if you’d like one, or a different Baby Bear 2016 ornament, I’m selling them in my Etsy shop

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Little Things?

When I moved back to Vermont I wanted to get involved with my community so I volunteered my time to a small group that aims to make Middlebury more Merry during the month of December.

Nothing fancy or noble-just little, fun things to create community and get people outside, downtown and into local businesses.

There are cut-outs around town for kids to pose in,

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Hot cocoa for 75 cents,

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and Santa arrives on the firetruck.

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You can bring your presents to be wrapped at a local bar,

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Ride ride around town in a horse drawn cart,

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and do an I Spy search for 10 little ornaments, hidden in the windows of downtown shops.

My job has been to make the ornaments and arrange for them to be hidden. The 1st year I painted little reindeer

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The next year was little snow children,

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And this year I decided to paint little Baby Bears in Christmas garb.

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I know-it’s too early to be thinking about Christmas–but I had to.

Then the election happened and it’s been hard to concentrate and harder to smile.

I found myself painting very pensive Baby Bears, with safety pins like the one on my sweater in their fur.

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I know wearing a safety pin is kind of lame-especially out in the sticks where I live,

and I know I live in a practically all white state, with loads of privilege and 1st world problems,

and I know it is just a little thing to offer as resistance, but I am offering it with all my heart.

I will put my money, my voice and my body to stand up for everyone’s rights and civil liberties.

You are safe with me.

If you enjoyed this post, please  follow me here: Ashley Wolff Art on Facebook, my webpage , my Etsy shop, or Instagram. You can follow the blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top of the sidebar.