... Over 50 shows across South Africa with Doc MacLean...

Aug 26, 2017

Art Imitating Life, Wood Cut to the Bone

When one of the world's great printmakers offered to make a poster for the upcoming tour, I didn't know what to expect. George A. Walker, who is probably best known for classic "Woodcut Artist's Handbook," his Alice in Wonderland illustrations, his limited edition books on Tom Thompson, Conrad Black, Trudeau... his books and broadsides made in partnership with Neil Gaiman... A highly collectable artist whose books and prints reside in important places would have me sit for a design session!

I brought my National up to his summer quarters in northern Ontario. After a couple of days and the better part of a case of red wine, Walker said he thought he had it figured out. He showed me a drawing I had to look at in a mirror. I told him I was glad we'd done it like this, because when I'm touring in South Africa I have to drive on the opposite side of the road from North America anyway. I didn't say the wrong side of the road– I can drive on both sides. And you could argue that it's not which side of the road I've driven on that's right or wrong, but rather the overall direction which I've taken in life upon that road. Not down the safety strip, that's for sure. My moral compass is probably spinning in it's case. Where ever that is.

We drank some more wine, and I told him about Charlie Patton and the Blues Highway and how it's not just Highway 61 running through Mississippi. South Africa's got a Highway 61, too. And I've driven that road from KwaZulu-Natal right across into the Great Karoo– but the lines on the highway are different there. So we had to go back and fix the road. Well, I told him he could change the lines of it, but the blues highway is like a snake: it will twist and turn away, it will bite you if you are not careful, and by the time you figure out you've been swallowed by it, you no longer care. And just when you think that it might be more a construct of the mind, you wake up in a flooded hotel room, with somebody pounding on your door...

Walker asked me if I really believed that the moon was a "hole in the sky." I answered that I'd heard a lot of things about the moon, but that an old man had once told me the story. In the morning, I found Walker hard at work. Leaving him to his business, I made my way back to the city.

Working from a backwards ink drawing on a large block of wood, the image springs to life under Walker's practised hand. This a labour intensive carving process.

Some weeks later we meet up at Walker's Toronto studio. The block is inked and ready to go. The press sits, gleaming, as ready as we are...

A short time later we've pulled some proofs on a selection of fine papers. This first lot will be "artist proofs," marked A/P. They look good. Walker carves a couple of minor corrections into the block. It looks really good, now. On fine paper, this is very, very cool. I want one!

Over the next couple of weeks we'll decide on paper, and then do a run of these special posters for sale at the Cross Bones shows. We'll pick a good paper, hand made, archival, but something that will enable a relatively modest sale price. The prints will be numbered and signed by both the Artist and the Performer. We'll also be scanning the poster image, for promotional use by the presenting venues.

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