Alan Witschonke
Back Pain

In between shoveling out from two major storms, I was able to fit in some drawings for Mr. Manny Velez at Wall Street Journal last weekend. The subject was back pain, which I found to be quite appropriate considering the trials of removing all that white stuff.

The job consisted of a main illustration, (in the on-line version there's a GIF of the red spot pulsating), and five spots showing alternative therapies such as massage, yoga and acupuncture along with the good ol' heating pad. He used four of the spots for his layout.

Thanks again, Manny!

Worked with the very great Manny Velez at the Wall Street Journal on a piece about how the Stepmill is now the exercise machine of choice for people who want a shorter, more intense workout.
Nothing like a quick turnaround job for getting the adrenaline going.
Manny's layout

Homage to Odilon Redon

At a recent used book library sale, I came across a book, The Graphic Works of Odilon Redon. I had heard of the artist before, but I was not that familiar with his work. Thumbing through the pages, I was mesmerized by the bizarre and intriguing vision of his Bosch-like world. I paid the $1 and immediately thought about interpreting his work, (copying from the master), in my style. The first few paintings are pretty close to the originals, but I plan on gradually pushing them into a sphere that is more my own. Working in the sketchbook helps me to do them more spontaneously.
Redon was born on April 20, 1840 in Bordeaux, but narrowly missed having New Orleans as his birthplace, and thus being an American. His French father had emigrated to Louisiana and married a Creole woman. Odilon’s older brother, Ernest, was born in New Orleans. But when Madame Redon became pregnant again, the family moved to France.

Apparently, Redon was a gentle and unassuming sort, not given to outraging the bourgeois with his behavior as was Gauguin, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec. Redon credited the artist Rodolphe Bresdin with teaching him the technique of printmaking, which opened the door to his “mind-haunting and often macabre” self-expression. According to Redon, art lovers, looking at Redon’s prints, would do well to surrender to the “charm of the vague”, as they would to chords of music, rather than search for a meaning, a “message” in the pedestrian sense of the word.

Opining on the color black, Redon states, “Black is the most essential of all colors. Above all…it draws its excitement and vitality from deep and secret sources of health… It does not please the eye and awakens no sensuality. It is an agent of the spirit far more that the fine color of the palette or the prism.”
It is not surprising that Redon has been claimed as a precursor to Surrealists who have asserted that “nothing but the astonishing” is beautiful, and who have described their pictures as “hand-painted dream photographs.”
--All biographical details are based on the introduction to the book by Alfred Werner.
Printmaking project
The primary print of 3 colors.

I recently took a one-evening workshop in printmaking without a press. I’ve had some experience with traditional printmaking processes like engraving, etching, relief printing, lithography, etc. This was a chance to have some fun with a technique that is not quite so exacting and does not require a lot of expensive equipment. In fact the “plate” that we used was styrofoam -- the kind you get with your ground beef at the supermarket.

We started by doing a drawing and transferring it onto the styrofoam, simply by tracing the lines through the paper with a pointed instrument. You can use whatever tool you want, and the instructor had a variety of styluses available. Since the styrofoam is soft enough to carve away easily, this becomes a subtractive process and we were also encouraged to cut and remove sections of the plate before each color was applied.
The ghost images with a 4th color, (black) added. This was not very successful because the registration was off slightly.

We used high-quality printmaker’s inks which were rolled smoothly and evenly with a brayer. After rolling the ink onto the plate, we brought it to a table that had a sheet of our paper ready to go. (There is no need to wet and blot the paper for this technique). We placed the plate on top of the paper, positioning it where we had drawn lines for registration and centering the image. We then flipped over plate and paper and rubbed the back of the paper with large wooden spoons -- very lo-tech. As this process of drawing, carving, cutting away and inking was repeated with each of the succeeding colors, the image grew richer and more complex, and the results were always unpredictable. We each used 3 or 4 colors. We also printed a second “ghost” image of each color on a separate piece of paper without re-inking, just as a contrast. Some combined their ghost images with primary images.

It was fun to stretch a bit.
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