Figs & Picasso

Residing in an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, we have lived with the exotic wonder of the fig tree. Typically grown in Mediterranean area countries, one by one, a cutting from the homeland transported, planted and nurtured in our backyards. These protective city dwelling enclaves, enabling the temperate plant to survive and prosper many a cold, damp New York winter. For us, outsiders in this tight knit community, Russell’s years of patio garden experimentation, noticed and respected by the elders. Always, come August, baskets of ripe figs passed over the backyard wall, tradition transferred.

Pablo Picasso Linocut 1960

Walking the IFPDA Print Fair at the Park Avenue Armory last November, a Picasso linoleum cut caught my eye. A line-drawn figure on a pale ground, simple yet glowing with dimension. I could see, evidence in the edges of the image, the negative space atypically printed in white on top of a black ground. Back in Brooklyn, Russell and I were discussing making a print of local scene representing the place we live and decided to use this Picasso approach. He went to the roof to sketch a few view options, and I began experimenting to decode the white-on-black technique. For me, trial and error found the key: the underpinning black ink drying for a day before the wet white ink was printed, blending contrasting colors only so slightly, creating desired blue shade chalky pastel.

View selected, Russell began transferring his drawing onto a block. Guiding the cutting tool, playing with the delicacy and weight of line, thinking back, inspired by of some of his favorite children’s book illustrations, Robert McCloskey’s Make Way For Ducklings and One Morning in Maine to make the image “work”. Results new, allowing influence, foraging home.

292 Manhattan Avenue (on Devoe St. next to church), Brooklyn NY


Graham Avenue L stop

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