1130 Pine Street, Paso Robles, CA 93446
March 6, 2017

Paso Art Scene

By Helen K Davie

Paso Art Scene

One of the things that I enjoy the most when I am at Studios is meeting visitors from all over the state, the country, and the world. Often they have questions about how our prints are made and we’re happy to explain the process. But they seem most interested in the various subjects my studio partners Rosey Rosenthal and Bob Simola, and I have chosen to depict. There was one woman couldn’t believe that I’d done a print of Acorn Woodpeckers. “You made them into ART?” she asked. I guess she had some drilling holes into her house, so I expect she didn’t like that too much, but other folks have really loved the print.

I make relief prints, also called Linocuts. Pieces of artists’ linoleum can be used as a substitute for woodblocks. I actually use a material made of vinyl. Its name is “Easy-to-Cut” and it is. I use Speedball cutters (gouges) to remove the areas that I want to remain white. The image must be carved out in reverse. Prints are made by inking up the carved plate with a brayer (like a paint roller); the paper is laid on top, and then burnished on the back or run through a press to transfer the ink.

When you drop by you’ll see a new series I’ve called “No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition” which consists of four red “comfy” chairs. If you’re a fan of Monty Python you get the joke. There are “Five Red Chairs Adrift in the Cosmos” as well-- plenty of seating in our space.

Another new series is “Women with Cats”. The Welsh artist Gwen John who painted lovely portraits of young women, some of them holding cats, inspired me to add a cat to famous paintings by Picasso, Gauguin, DaVinci, and Modigliani. I had a lot of fun creating the perfect cat for each woman.

Yes, you’ll find a lot of cat images in my work. I can’t help it. We currently have three cats, but counting up the names from the first cat, John Muir (Mew-er), there have been twelve since 1978. They make excellent models. Black cats especially have a strong graphic quality. I’ve had my images of them printed on aprons and greeting cards. North County Humane Society receives a portion of those sales, as well as from a new print I’ve titled One Life, Nine Cats. Two of my cats were adopted from NCHS so I want to help support them in their important work.

Besides cats and chairs and Acorn Woodpeckers, I’ve made prints of beetles, Barn Owls, Boston Terriers (the Studios’ mascots Smudge and Squiggles), rabbits, foxes, chickens (I kept them away from each other), parakeets and pigeons, as well as persimmons, pomegranates, and blueberries.

I have a career as a children’s book illustrator. I’ve painted watercolors of many of animals including hermit crabs, pikas, penguins, pintails, and dolphins. Other books feature Ojibwe stories, or auroras, or galaxies. I’ve even painted animal portraits for signs at the Brandywine Zoo in Delaware. It’s all been pure joy.

Every new medium I’ve explored has challenged me to interpret the world in a different “language”, but my artistic vision and voice remain the same. I am inspired by the cycles of nature, light and shadows, and the multitude of shapes, patterns, and colors of landforms, rocks, plants and living creatures-- especially cats.


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