Skip to main content

News of a Former Student


I saw this article in the latest issue of Poets and Writers magazine, and I was, as we British say, extremely chuffed. The photo shows five young writers who have been selected to be student ambassadors in the National Student Poets Program. Second from the left in the photo, standing shoulder to shoulder with First Lady Michelle Obama, is Sojourner Ahebee. Sojourner took a class with Patty and me in January 2012, and seeing her in this picture made me a) extremely proud to have worked with her for a short period, and b) extremely jealous that she got to meet Michelle Obama.

The circumstances of the class: Patty and I were invited to teach a five day Journal and Sketchbook class to students at the Interlochen Arts Academy in northern Michigan. The students ranged in age from 15 to 18. They were musicians, theater students, writing students. Some of them were not that interested in the class, and some of them, like Sojourner, responded strongly to it. I particularly remember Sojourner because of her name, which she explained to me was given to her in memory of Sojourner Truth, the nineteenth african- american woman who was born a slave and became a travelling preacher. I can also still call to mind a piece of writing and accompanying drawing that she did in the class. Like many of the people who take this class with me and Patty, they aren't trained artists. But Sojourner wrote a poem about the Middle Passage, and the practice of throwing kidnapped Africans overboard to drown, sometimes just to make the ship lighter. The drawing that she made showed a ship and waves at the top of the page, and then a figure falling down through space towards the bottom of the page. Like the poem she wrote, it had concrete physical detail in it, and wasn't just an exposition of some history that she'd read.

From the article, it seems that she's continued to explore this material now that she is a poetry major at college. It was a privilege to meet her, and I'm sure we'll all hear more from her as she continues to grow as an artist.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Soft Ground Etching with Baldwin Intaglio Ground

This is another post where I talk about my own research into how to obtain the best results from non-toxic etching materials -- specifically, the Baldwin Intaglio Ground. This is a form of etching resist developed by printmaker Andrew Baldwin, from the UK, as a non-toxic alternative to the nasty chemicals contained in traditional hard ground and soft ground resists. It comes in a tube, and when you squeeze some out onto an inking slab it looks like etching ink. You roll it onto the copper plate with a brayer, as if you were inking a relief block, in contrast to the traditional hard grounds, which are either melted onto the plate or poured on as a liquid hard ground. Applying the BIG to make a hard ground is relatively easy. Using it as a soft ground can be quite tricky, and it has taken me many tries and many failures to achieve a satisfactory etch.

The main problem, unfortunately, is the lack of specific instructions in preparing the BIG soft ground. Andrew Baldwin has some excellen…

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.


A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…