Thursday, August 28, 2008

Art in the streets

The Palo Alto Festival of the Arts was a great way to spend a Saturday: enjoying the sun, strolling down the middle of University Avenue, looking at the work of talented artists, and indulging in the sort of food you only eat at street fairs.

Fried artichoke hearts with mayonnaise, fried calamari, kettle corn, skewers of grilled meat. (Where else could you walk around chomping on a stick of teriyaki chicken without feeling self-conscious?)

One block was set aside for Italian street painting, and a vivid patchwork of ephemeral art emerged.

The City from Grizzly Peak
The City from Grizzly Peak, by Tom Killion

I took home this wonderful woodcut print and its mate; together the pair gives a panoramic view of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Bay. The artist, Tom Killion, draws on the techniques of early 19th century Japanese ukiyo-ë landscape masters as well as those of early 20th century American and European wood-engraving and book illustration.

Working from his own sketches made on site, Killion carves the images onto blocks made of cherry, linoleum or other materials, using Japanese hand tools. Sometimes a different block is made for each color. Other times, a block is printed with a light color; then parts are carved away and another color is used, overprinting the first.

I enjoyed talking with Killion at his festival booth and looking at his samples demonstrating the complex process by which the layers of color are added to the print. It's wonderful to have a piece of art in your home that you enjoy looking at every day, and it's even more meaningful to have met the artist and listened to him or her describe the creative process.

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