Earlier this summer, we teamed up with George Davis to create letterpress art prints for his latest exhibit, “The Doodle Show,” which is currently on display at the Depot Theatre in Westport, New York. We letterpress printed the trio of art prints on our Heidelberg SBB cylinder press to ensure even ink coverage of the designs, which all make great use of negative space and feature heavy floods of classic black ink. Today we’re sharing George’s inspiration behind the designs, which will be on display until October 15th.
Let’s start with Soar, a dizzying bird flying skyward. The seed for this image was a ceramic tile I spotted in Taos, New Mexico. Rusty red glaze painted onto a white tile, yellowing with age. Simple image, sparse brush strokes. It struck me that this carefree creature was trapped in the grid of tiles. Cubicled. But it yearned to escape, longed to fly high into the turquoise dome. Freedom. So I liberated it. I simplified the silhouette and added the concentric silhouette. Echoes. Slightly vertiginous.
Design Shoal began with a 2-3 foot tall, hand painted ceramic vase, one of a pair that stood in opposite corners of a room in Anguilla. As I recall, the pattern on the vase was blue-green, maybe aquamarine. The background was white. The walls were white. And the vases — exotic artifacts from afar — were balancing the upholstery. Or the immense chandelier. Or the panoramic view of the Mediterranean. Designed. Decorated. Carefully choreographed, perhaps a little too carefully. The vases, though intricately detailed, seemed less self-conscious, more alluring. I loved their texture, was distracted by the possibility of the same vase underwater, sunken treasure, tropical fish schooling and shoaling around it. The fish is actually a single image duplicated, tweaked, and rescaled, and it was sketched quickly after snorkeling.
Soar and Design Shoal are included in 40×41: Midlife Crisis Postponed, a collection of meditations on middle age. They are visual poems, an experiment that I’m revisiting in a second edition due out by year’s end.
St. Joseph’s Steeple is a standing-on-the-ground view looking almost directly up at the tall pointy part of a church located a five minute walk from my home. I’m attracted to unusual perspectives. I’m attracted to texture (tactile and visual). Combining both provides a fresh look at this handsome but restrained country church. Or at least that’s what I was hoping to achieve. The illustration is included in Essex, New York Architecture: A Doodler’s Field Guide, an unconventional handbook intended to inspire architectural curiosity and creativity.
All three of these images are what I refer to as digital doodles. A few years ago I vowed to transform my mobile devices from productivity tools into creativity tools. From albatross to adventure, ball and chain to hot air balloon. Less data overload; more whimsy. Less anxiety; more joy. Today we’re so inundated with digital demands, deadlines, commitments, communications that we sometimes overlook the magnificent world around us. We trudge around with our necks doubled and our fingers swiping and typing. When we glance up it’s too often just to document our sexy appetizer or our dog’s antics for our friends and family on social media. We too rarely distill anything enduring from the digital detritus, rarely harness our devices’ remarkable capacity for invention and caprice and wonder. So I decided to try. My digital doodles combine illustrations, photographs, and collage. They inevitably endure multiple iterations in Photoshop purgatory as I play and explore and experiment and remix and strip away and occasionally — if I get really fortunate — a few of these digital first image evolve to a stage when ink and paper and fingerprints are indicated. This is the evasive but glorious goal. Boxcar Press helped me achieve this goal with Soar, Design Shoal, and St. Joseph’s Steeple. And I am profoundly grateful. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Many thanks to George for sharing his inspiration behind his impressive art prints! If you’re planning a visit to the Adirondacks, be sure to visit the Depot Theatre to check out the exhibit.
Gallery photographs provided by George Davis.