Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What's It All About Wednesday: Snow Shadows

Well. I had intended to make an overdue run to the Front Range today, but the forecast calls for snow everywhere. It's a 2-3 hour drive for me each way (depending on where I'm headed) in GOOD weather. Forget trying to navigate mountain passes when the weather's questionable.

Staying home means getting other things done, though, so be prepared for an update on the linocut-in-progress tomorrow. And in the spirit of a snowy day, I'd like to share a little bit about "Snow Shadows II."

First things first (or maybe that's second things second): It's called Snow Shadows TWO because I did a smaller black-and-white version back before I started making color reduction prints.

One of my art heroes is Francis Lee Jacques, who worked as a fine artist, illustrator, and painter of  dioramas in the 1920s-40s, first at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and later at the Bell Museum in Minnesota. Jacques was a great painter, but it is his black-and-white scratchboard illustrations that knock my socks off, particularly those he did to illustrate several books by his wife, Florence Page Jacques. I went on a major eBay binge in the 1990s and bought everything I could find, since all of Florence's books were out of print. Several of them have since been reissued, but I'm quite fond of my 1940s-vintage first editions, thank you very much.

Jacques was a master of design and a consummate draftsman. He was, in my opinion, the king of negative space, making fantastic choices about what to render and what to suggest. Florence was an equally charming writer, documenting her adventures as the new bride of an avid outdoorsman. Here's a little snippet from Canoe Country to give you a taste of both.

It's simple but dramatic images like this one that showed me the design possibilities of water ripples and snow shadows. And Jacques' trees are darn lovely, too.

So what's that got to do with my linocut? Eight or nine years ago I was out driving with a friend on a sparkling, post-snowfall morning. We came around a bend and I shouted STOP! and was out of the truck in a flash. There... right there! was a shadow pattern worthy of Jacques. I snapped a few quick photos and vowed to "do something with them sometime."

My first black-and-white effort to "do something" showed promise, but once I started to feel more confident about reduction prints I gave it another try in color. It's no Jacques, but I like to think he'd approve of those snow shadows.


  1. Lovely. Both your words and the snipped from Canoe Country. It's great to know the story behind those snow shadows prints. Thanks and happy printing!

  2. very nice story :) I am surprised sometimes that when artists get that aha! moment and yell stop! go back! don't move!, that anyone else near by doesn't have a heart attack from being startled or try to section the artist for being insane looking at shadows and shapes :p

  3. Sherrie -- I am also a long time fan of Lee Jaques. His work deserves much wider recognition and appreciation. His illustrations for Sig Olson's books were my introduction to him. From there, I discovered the books he did with Florence. From the time I first saw it on your website, I felt your Snow Shadows II print showed his influence; great to have that confirmed. It's a beautiful piece.

  4. Hey Susan, in all your spare time you might want to read some of Florence's work, her wit and wonder at being dragged along on collecting trips is quite charming.

    Jennifer... I've always thought artists and birders should have stickers on their cars that say "Caution: I stop for no apparent reason."

    Steve! Great to find a fellow Jacques fan. I have a couple of the Olson books, too, and the William O. Douglas books... and... (I did mention an eBay binge, did I not?)

  5. It's lovely to hear about what inspired you, I've never heard of Jacques, am off to follow your link now!

  6. Kate, there's surprisingly little about Jacques on the web, but if you do a little Google-digging you should find some intriguing bits!