This is the third is a series (you can see the first and second prints) of linocuts depicting my family, primarily from vintage photos, with creative license in the form of imagined animals and a variety of environments added to the imagery.
The linocut above – Tweet – was from a wonderful old photo of my dad’s sister and mother, leaning on the dutch door of their Connecticut farmhouse in the early 1950’s. I altered their gazes & added the Macaw and the Budgie to the art. My grandmother kept a little parakeet in her kitchen, and my grandfather designed and manufactured a variety of bird-feeders. Every shape and style of hand-built bird feeder prototype hung like ornaments in the trees of their backyard.
I remember marveling at the variety and colors of birds that congregated around the house every year. The library in their living room included books on birds, and reel to reel recordings of bird songs. The fireplace mantle was adorned with tiny whittled birds my grandfather carved from driftwood, pine and scrap pieces of white plastic from his machine shop. My affinity for birds has a long history sprinkled with Nana and Grandpa nostalgia.
|Pulling the first proof print|
|Inking the block to proof a print|
|Carving; the light stain in the wood stain helps me see the cutting|
|After drawing on the block, I seal it with wood stain|
Mr Benson made his first experiments in etching while he was a student in the school of the Museum of Fine Arts, but it was not until 1912 that, led again in this direction by making numbers of wash drawings in black and white, his real work on copper began. At first we find him chiefly occupied in learning the technique of the new art, in discovering the value and effect of the etched or drypoint line, though in this early work there are certain passages, such as the suggestion of the height and the speed of the flying ducks, and the drawing of the sea in Blue Bills, or the soft sunlight, the masterly rendering of water with its smooth texture and silent ripples in Mallards, one of his first drypoints that are not later surpassed. In The Gunner, made in 1915, his manner is definitely formed, and we may consider this plate achieved by the straightforward use of line, beautiful in itself as the finest of his etchings. With the same economy of line he has embodied in The Seiner, his feeling for the sea for its heavy toss, its literal weight and depth; but the Clam Digger, somewhat earlier, and The Lobsterman partake of other qualities are more sentimental, and derive interest from marked effects of light. It seems impossible that the shapely coats of the birds in Mr Benson’s drypoints could be so happily accomplished in any other medium. His drypoint, also heightens our sense of the underlying design, and intensifies the harmony of rich darks contrasted with white paper, and blended sometimes, as in Solitude, with quiet grays. These qualities appear in Morning, with its geese seen through the mist, the nearest rising heavily, the farthest flying with quickened speed; or in that striking pattern Geese Alighting, where the birds plane into the water still supported by their wings; or in Hurry, in which the action of the swimming ducks is perfect. Nor is it the least virtue of his plates that the birds are scientifically observed, or that being both ornithologist and gunner, he has made the lazy and elegant egrets or nervous yellowlegs interesting to sportsmen. Mr Benson’s work, reflects above all, the feeling of a sentient man who is out of doors to shoot and fish, not primarily to sketch; an artist whose impulses are as fresh as the facts of beauty which give them rise. He will doubtless make other and better plates, but his work so far marks him as one who uses etching not as a means for the making of pictures, but as an intimate and personal medium of expression.
The Etchings & Drypoints of Frank W. Benson, by Adam Paff ~1917