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At the Musee Picasso, IV

For this visit, it's back to Picasso's printmaking. Several of the rooms on the upper floor of the museum have samples of Picasso's linocuts, including a few of the blocks themselves. The print show above is one of his reduction linocuts, a process that he invented, and which entails printing several colours from one block by successively cutting away portions of the block between colour runs. I actually teach classes using this process, and it usually produces great results.

The blocks show below are not reduction, but two blocks used for a four colour print, with an easy dividing line produced by the wavy line between hills and sky:

I notice something that carries over from his etchings: there is a freedom of mark-making, and a refusal to be afraid of simplicity, that lends itself particularly well to the creation of an image using a soft material like linoleum.


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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…

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I Did Nazi This Coming

Metropolitan Opera, New York: Parsifal Act III
Despite being a lifelong lover of and listener to opera, I've never had the ear for Wagner's music. I love hearing everything from Gluck up to John Adams, but skirted around or jumped over Wagner whenever the temptation presented itself.

I used the provocative 'N' word in the title of this post because one of the things that has always made me wary of the Bard of Bayreuth is the stain laid on it by its National Socialist admirers. That's not the only reason.

Reasons why I never liked Wagner:
The enormous length of his operas, often five hours plus. And my objection was not to the length per se, but to what it said about his musical language. For example, if like me you are steeped in Mozart's operative language, with its brilliance and variety and liveliness, Wagner's music can seem turgid and static by comparison.
The ridiculous medieval stories. Given the chance to watch Mozart or Puccini or Richard Strauss…