Monday, September 28, 2020

Cherish

Because I take LOTS of photos of my work as I make a print, just thought I would share a few here with you.



This is the first block I carved.  Beautiful, isn't it?  Unfortunately, the word "Cherish" needed to be reversed on the block so that when I printed, it would read correctly.  



Here is what the initial block looked like when I test printed it.  Ugh!  I was bummed when I realized what I had done.  But because I really liked the image, I made a plan.  

I knew I wanted this to be a two color print, red and gold.  And I always cut my multi-colored blocks apart like a puzzle so I can ink the different colored parts separately, and then put them back together before I print.  Sooooo...




I decided to cut the mistake block apart and recarve just the heart again, this time, reversing the type.




And then I inked it to test how the block and the type turned out.  Perfect!  




Here I am, doing the actual print in two colors.




I used my new Wood Zilla press to make the printing easier on my hands.




The finished print.  I used Calico Safewash red ink and Cranfield oil based gold ink on thick, Stonehenge paper.  The finished print size is 10"x10."










Thursday, September 17, 2020

Spirit Guide

What motivates an artist to create a certain piece of art is usually personal.  Many times an artwork carries some emotional significance to that artist.  And then when the viewer sees the artwork, they are looking at it through their own personal perceptions and life experiences.  I think when you are drawn strongly to a piece of art, it's because it relates to something in your own life that has value and significance. 

I know this is true for my black cat artwork.  I have been told many times how the work reminds someone of their own black cat, or a black cat they know.  

My own artwork is full of personal symbolism.  When I started printing black cats, I wanted the black cat to be seen more as a symbol for all cats, not just black ones.  The inspiration behind the work is my cats, two gingers and a tuxedo cat.  But as I said, I think most admirers of my cat artwork are black cat guardians.  


My latest linocut print, "Spirit Guide," is layered with symbolism for me.  The first layer of significance is my love of tigers.  They have been my favorite wild animal for as long as I can remember.  I love the beauty of these cats.  Black and orange and white.  What's not to love?  And I love their strength and fierceness.  They remind me to be brave and strong and bold.  Even in my vulnerability. 


But this piece is also about my cat Tiger, who recently passed away.  Tiger was the first cat I ever adopted.  Before I met him, I knew I wanted a ginger cat, and I knew I was going to name him Tiger, because of my love of the big cats.  My cat Tiger fit his name.  He was beautiful, but he was also fierce. He always had a bit of a wild streak in him, which I'm not sure a lot of guardians would have put up with.  But when I adopt, it is for life, so we worked it out.  Tiger was the alpha in the house, always in charge of the other furry family members, and my husband and myself.  We loved him dearly.

I learned so much from having Tiger in my life, about love and caring, forgiveness, caring for a sick pet, patience, other animals.  The list goes on and on.  He was an inspiration in my artwork for years, and an inspiration in my life.  My best companion and friend.  

So another layer of symbolism for this piece is that it represents Tiger.  I looked up the expression, "Spirit Guide," on Wikipedia, and they explain it like this: "In western spiritualism, a spirit guide is a spirit that remains after death, that acts as a guide or protector to a living human being."  I also saw the expression explained as a guardian angel, guide, or enlightened being.  An animal in spirit.  I like that.  It may or may not be true, but I like feeling like he is still with me in spirit.  He is certainly held closely by me in my heart.  I think of him every day.  

So when you view my print "Spirit Guide," you may just like it because you like tigers, like I do.  Or you might have other personal meaning that you see in this piece.  Either way, I hope you enjoy this print. 


 


Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Path Made Clear

Every week day morning, I like to start my day with a walk.  I just started listening to audio books, and what I like to listen to is inspiration.  It helps fire me up as I walk, giving me extra energy, and also inspires and motivated for my coming day.


One book I listened to recently, is an audio book by Oprah Winfrey called "The Path Made Clear:  Discovering Your Life's Direction and Purpose."  I LOVED it.  Oprah wrote it and reads it.  It is full of her philosophy and life experiences, as well as wisdom from others she has interviewed over the years including, to name a few, Elizabeth Gilbert, Deepak Chopra, Ellen Degeneres, Joel Osteen and many, many more.

As a child, I was in touch with my purpose at a young age.  But I was not raised in a family that encouraged me to follow that path.  I think like many people, my parents were practical folks, thinking an artist's path some magical fairy tale, and unachievable and impractical goal.  "Be an accountant," I was told, "you're good at math.  Be a banker."  Anything but an artist.  

Part of what this book talks about is how you really have to believe in yourself, believe that what you want is achievable, and that you can have it or achieve it.  Once you start moving towards that goal, life will unfold before you to help you move in the direction of your dreams.  

Oh, there is so much wisdom in this book.  My description is just one small tidbit from it.  If you like being inspired, and inspired about living the life of your dreams, I would highly recommend reading or listening to this book.  I even bought the book itself after I listened the audio version.  That is how much it inspired me.  



Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Center of the Universe

"Center of the Universe," in two color versions


Do you have a cat in your life that you consider to be the "center of the universe?"  I bet you do.  

And I do too.  My eldest cat, Tiger.  Tiger is the inspiration behind this particular print.  He is the center of MY universe.  Adopted him 13 year ago, and he has changed my life for the better in so many ways.  Cats can do that.

"Center of the Universe," black ink on white paper


I have been drawn to the symbol of the mandala for many years.  As a symbol, the mandala represents the universe.  "Mandala is a Sanskrit word, that loosely translates to mean 'circle' or 'center.'  Mandalas are circular designs symbolizing the notion that life is never ending. The imagery depicts the universe and the symbols represent one’s spiritual journey, the cycles of birth-life-death, and the interconnectedness of all living things."  I like that.

"Center of the Universe," gold metallic ink on black paper


So this print, "Center of the Universe," is all about the special connection we have with our four legged furry friends.


(Information about Mandalas from:
http://spiritualawakening.weebly.com/mandalas-what-are-they.html)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Best Day of My Life

Today is my cat Tiger's gotcha day.   You know, the day of his adoption.  That was 13 years ago today.  My husband and I were walking past a neighborhood pet store, and Friends for Life, a small local shelter, has having an adoption event.  I tried my best not to look at the kittens.  I knew I wanted to adopt a kitten, but I was planning on waiting a few months before doing that.  But I have a HUGE soft spot for ginger cats.  I looked.  There he was.  I was in love. The rest is history.



In the 13 years we have shared our lives, I have been through some ups and downs.  Jobs and career changes, losing another beloved cat and dog, starting new jobs, adopting new furry friends.  Through it all, I have had my buddy by my side.  I am grateful.

He wasn't always the easiest cat to live with.  Tiger has always needed to be the dominant animal in the house.  Even over the humans.  Tiger lives with two other cats, and a dog, and Tiger rules.  And they know it.   I have also had aggression problems with him.  So much so, I'm not sure if another person would have kept him.  He used to attack me when he was young.  But for me, once I adopt, it's for life.  So I did all I could to work with him and his aggression.  It was tough.  We have made it to the other side.

Tiger, my buddy.

 Tiger is the first pet I have ever adopted.  So he will always have a special place in my heart.  I have learned soooo much from him.  About unconditional love, for him, and from him.   About patience.  About animals in general.   And of course, he has been an inspiration in my artwork. 

"Magic Carpet," print inspired by a photo of Tiger.

"Wise One," print inspired by a photo of Tiger.
Adopting Tiger really was one of the best days of my life.  And yes, we will be celebrating Tiger today with all his furry brothers, and some of his most FAVORITE food, tuna fish.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Black Cat Awareness Month

Did you know that October is International Black Cat Awareness Month?  Being that I just completed a series of artwork with a black cat theme, I thought I would shed a little light on the plight of black cats.

Black Cat Handmade Prints @MaryAnnTestagrossaArt

"The creation of International Black Cat Awareness Month came about after it’s creator, Layla Morgan Wilde, noticed that while there are two days dedicated to black cats in the world (One in the UK, one in the US) there wasn’t anything dedicated to them on a national level. Such an observation is desperately needed, as superstitions surrounding black cats had gotten so out of control that shelters won’t even adopt them out during October any longer. Too often the cats were being adopted as part of the Halloween holiday mystique, and would be abandoned or worse after the holiday passed.  Throughout the rest of the year, it’s typically more difficult to get them adopted.  How much more difficult? Black cats have the longest wait in shelters and are adopted at a rate 50% lower than any other color of cat, which we can’t understand at all."  Shelters across the country call this "black cat syndrome."  Black cats are overlooked again and again by adopters because they associate them with bad luck, black magic, and other negative superstitions.

Black Cat Handmade Prints @MaryAnnTestagrossaArt

This issue doesn’t apply to only solid black cats. Tuxedo cats, cats with a white chest and sometimes paws, are equally hard to place.  I can tell you personally, we have a tuxedo cat and he is the best.  We adopted him from a local shelter, and he is funny, playful and so loving.  One of our best adoptions yet.

What can you do to help black cats:

1.  Adopt a black or tuxedo cat, or two, from a local shelter. 
2.  Keep your black cat indoors, especially at Halloween time.
3.  Donate to black cat organizations.
4.  Donate to cat shelters.
5.  If you are a black cat guardian, talk to people about how great your black cat is.  Educate people.  

(Above quote shared from:  https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/international-black-cat-awareness-month/)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

On Inspiration - Ellen Von Wiegand

Before I started making linocut prints, I did a lot of looking at other artist's work.  The internet is such a great resource for inspiration.  My favorite social media platform is Instagram because it is soooo visual.  I think many artists feel the same way.

Ellen in her studio, pulling a new print.


One artist who really inspired the style of my cat prints was and is, Ellen Von Wiegand from the UK.
"With a Sigh"

Ellen uses herself as a model for her nudes.  Here is some of what she has to say about her work...  

"My images reverberate with this search for self assurance and serenity, and my own nude body is featured in each piece. I originally began using myself as a model because it gave me a lot of control over my compositions, and I didn’t have the ability to pay someone else. However using my body has caused my work to develop into something highly personal. When we are nude we are at our most vulnerable, and I have come to see my work as a way to reconcile with the shy, insecure and fearful pieces of myself. There is also something I love about showing myself naked when in fact I am severely uncomfortable being undressed in front of others. It is a practice in being more open and allowing people into my world when in my real life I struggle to do so."

"Moon Splashed"

Ellen continues... "That said I don’t see my prints as self-portraits, but rather physical representations of emotional states of being. Male or female, my hope is that you see a piece of yourself reflected back to you in each image."

"Acceptance"

Though her work is VERY personal, what drew me to her style was that she prints her nudes in shades of blue and deep reds, which give her images a less personal, and more universal appeal, like this could be any woman, not just her specifically.  I also like the simplicity of the line work, not a lot of details in the nude image, but just enough to convey a feeling.  

Austin Kleon, in his book "Steal Like an Artist," talks about finding your own voice by copying your heroes.  He says, "By copying your heroes, you find your voice because you can not perfectly copy anyone's work.  You are influenced by other ideas that mix with the work,  and that becomes your work, your voice.  You transform or transcend what you started with, and it becomes your style." 

Now when you look at my work, I think you can clearly see her influence.  Here are just two examples...

"Mandala"

"Wise One"

When I start a new cat print, I start with a photo of one of my cats.  My cats are ginger and a black and white tuxedo.  In my artwork, I have chosen to use black as the color for all the cat images.  My black cat prints are usually seen as artwork about black cats, and that is OK.  I like black cats too.  But I am using the black cat as a universal symbol for all cats.  

My hope in doing this post is to give you a little more insight into my artwork.  And to share one of my inspirational heroes with you.  Hope you enjoy her work as much as I do.

To learn more about Ellen Von Wiegand, check out:

And to see more of her beautiful work, check out:
-Ellen's Instagram page

(All images of Ellen Von Wiegand's work used with her permission.)