Printmaking Update: Barn Owl Engraving

My adventures in printmaking continue with my newest print of a barn owl sitting in a moonlit forest. I wanted to see if I could make a print that would pay respects to the engraving traditions that have been around for centuries.

The idea for the barn owl flowed naturally from two projects I recently completed. The first was the owl I painted in my wall mural and the second, my last print of a “wind-up” crow. I was torn between emphasizing surrealism, as with my crow print, and emphasizing realistic detail.

In the end, detail won out.

Here’s a little jog through my process in pictures and, by the way, see the finished product in all its glory in my Etsy shop:

First I sketched the image using royalty-free photographic references I found online. I sketched directly on the resingrave plate.


Next I began to carve. The pink color is a pastel sharpie marker I used over the plate so I could see where I was carving.

In the process of carving

Eventually, I was able to proof them. the first proofing, not pictured here, showed that the prints were too dark. I needed to work on the gradations, which is is still a huge challenge for me in this medium.


And finally, the finished product!


Finished Owl Print

I think this may be my last traditional, realistic piece for a while. For my next blog post, I will tell you all about a new body of work I’m creating for an exhibition next year here in Germany. Hint: I’m drawing on all my latest obsessions – the mechanical, the nature-inspired, the connections between things… Stay tuned!


Living the Creative Life: Woodland Library Mural

Things have come together in the best possible way since I left my full-time studio practice to re-enter the workforce. I feel like I’m getting closer to my goal of living creatively on many levels, not just through my own artwork.

Working at the library has provided unimagined opportunities for me to educate, create, and inspire. At the same time, I have found a low-key job without long hours, too much stress, and windowless cubicles! It just reinforces my desire to never go back to an office job.

So, I wanted to share the most ambitious project I’ve worked on so far for the library: a woodland mural.

Our library has these two short walls next to the circulation desk. They are just a little weird and asymetrical. The idea was to paint two trees, one on each post, and use the trees to create-library related displays and decorations year round (More on that later in this post).

First, I’ll show you the evolution of the project in pictures.

Here I am painting the base coat.

The tree on the righthand side. The original idea was to leave the outline all in white and paint the animals and flowers in full-color.

Here’s the other side. This column was L-shaped, so I was able to wrap the image around.

I painted a number of North American birds because I miss them so much here in Germany. Especially cardinals.

Here’s the owl all finished. He’s my favorite part of the whole thing.

Okay, so maybe not every animal is North American. My boss, the librarian, really wanted a hedgehog….

….and a giant hare.

All finished! I decided to supplement the white outline with black “reverse” highlights.

Our first display was to use each tree as a “Poet-Tree” (get it?) The kernal of the idea grew from here. Essentially, you provide patrons with everything they need to create poetry of their own, without the initmidation factor of attempting to compose an original poem word by word. This is why using the concept of “found word” poetry is so great.

FullSizeRender (2)

It’s amazing to see what people create:

Found Poetry for Poetree

I’m looking forward to coming up with new displays and creative ideas for how to use our two unique trees. In the meantime, our sister library has called and they want a mural of their own!

Heather Kerleyt Corbeau Mecanique

Corbeau Robo: Finished Print!

I’m happy to unveil my new print, a happy addition to my current exploration of “Wind-up Birds.” This isn’t the first time I’ve used watercolors in printmaking, but it is the first time each version will be a little different with a slightly different color combination. Here, you can follow the progress of my print in pictures.

Carving in Progress.
Carving in progress.

I decided to use resingrave for the print. Resingrave is an enameled surface that’s hard to carve, but yields great fine details. The hardest part of the drawing was figuring out the way the gears, which are visible in the bird’s chest, should look.

First Proof after carving
First proof after carving.

The first print was too dark, I think because I’m still a little timid working in this medium. I also needed to clean up the white space where the crow is standing.

Print run!
Print run!

Next, the print run! It went pretty well. This was the first time I used my little letterpress printer to make a resingrave print, and I have to say it went perfectly smoothly.

Heather Kerley WindUp Bird Print Pith and Root Studio
And the finished print!

Heather Kerleyt Corbeau Mecanique

I had to recreate the border of the image, but other than that, I felt it needed only a little correcting with an ink pen. The fun part was painting the watercolor stripes. I’m experimenting with different combinations. CorbeauMecanique_set

You can check these out in my Etsy shop! 

Pith and Root Studio Etsy Shop

This Etsy Seller’s Reaction to an Etsy IPO

Last week, Etsy filed for a proposed initial public offering, or IPO.  I’m somewhat chagrined but not surprised. I just hope the typical small-time seller will see some benefit.

In the email sent out to all Etsy sellers when the IPO was announced, Dickerson signed his name in the typical way as “Chad” with a small, smiling photo of himself. This struck me as a little funny. For years, Etsy has projected an image to its sellers that the executives and managers who run it are “just like us,” that it is a small company run by a bunch of young hipsters in Brooklyn.

I know that Etsy started out that way, but I am not sure how true that is now. Etsy now has 1.4 million sellers across the globe, about 685 employees, and offices in New York, Melbourne, Dublin, London, Paris, Berlin, Toronto and San Francisco (Source). Add to those figures an IPO in which Etsy hopes to raise $100 million, and this is not your friendly little startup for crafty people anymore. It doesn’t help that Etsy has been so poor at communicating with sellers about changes to the site and to its own vision. The largest breach between those at the helm at Etsy and us small-time sellers came when Etsy changed its vision statement, clearly omitting the previously sacrosanct edict on Etsy – that only handmade and vintage items were permitted. The current wording states as such:

Etsy is a marketplace where people around the world connect, both online and offline, to make, sell and buy unique goods.

“Unique” in this context is a fuzzy word with very clear connotations to Etsy sellers. It means that “handmade” is no longer Etsy’s bailiwick. Objects on Etsy may be produced on a large-scale or created by manufacturers. To be fair, Etsy has attempted to create some transparency by asking sellers to reveal all relationships with manufacturers as well as all employees. In practice, however, this is a voluntary exercise, with only the honest sellers providing optimal disclosure. It is now clear that those who fought to maintain the purity of Etsy as a “handmade” marketplace (including its own founder Rob Kalin, who quit over such changes) have lost the battle for Etsy’s soul.

The big question now is how an IPO will affect Etsy sellers going forward. I can’t help but wonder why shareholders who want to support the vision of Etsy would invest in the IPO when they could invest in Etsy sellers by buying their products.

What will Etsy’s shareholders demand? I think to answer this question, it’s instructive to look at Facebook’s IPO. If the example of Facebook is any indication, the demand will be the continued growth of sellers and listings. Etsy has almost doubled in size since I opened my own shop and shows no sign of stopping. However, the promise of more growth that Facebook “sold” to shareholders was based on the pattern of growth that Facebook was experiencing at the time it filed for its IPO. Economists and investors always seem to look at growth and predict more similar (and infinite) growth without questioning whether that growth is sustainable or advisable. In the case of Facebook, they perhaps failed to realize that Facebook’s spread was more akin to that of a virus moving through the population, with people eventually becoming inoculated against its pervasive influence. They also may have neglected to account for the rise of other platforms that would eventually lure users away.

For some reason, Etsy does not have this last problem. Competitors are not able to lure away Etsy sellers very easily. I think this is partly because opening an Etsy shop and building a costumer base all takes a lot of work and it is difficult to pull up stakes.

The spread of Etsy may have peaked or is slowing in the United States, thanks to a recovering economy and perhaps the waning popularity of handmade crafts (because that is a trend that seems to come and go). However, I see a lot of new sellers opening up shops in other parts of the world, especially Southern Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. I have no statistics to support these assertions, by the way, it’s just a hunch I have based on exploring Etsy a little more than the average consumer.

But the elephant in the room is what to do about all those sellers that do not seem to fit the profile of the stereotypical Etsy seller. Those shops that seem to be connected to no one but a city in China, or they have a crafted seller profile, but 900 listings for dirt-cheap jewelry. With so many sellers all over the world, who can police or regulate who opens a shop and what they sell? Who do you complain to when what is ostensibly a sweatshop somewhere sells you something cheap and not as described and then refuses to grant a refund? Will investors care about these problems, as long as predicted growth stays on track? The question on most seller’s minds seems to be, “What if Etsy is just on its way to becoming the next Ebay?”

For myself, although I am disappointed that Etsy is not what it once was, I still enjoy the look of the site and convenience of selling through it, even though, as has been noted by more people than me, Etsy isn’t really the best place to sell visual art. Still, I’ve made some very valuable connections on Etsy with talented artisans around the world and I have relished the chance to forge a personal relationship with my patrons.

I only wish that, in going through with an IPO, that Etsy continues to make its sellers a priority. It would be nice to see increased traffic and more advertising overall for the site  — and not just for those sellers who are halfway there to running their own wholesale company, but for the same small-time artists, crafters, and vintage sellers who built Etsy from the ground up.


New Paintings: Haruki Murakami, Wind-Up Birds, and Magical Realism

After spending three years blissfully focusing on art full time, I am now working again and it is a challenge striking a balance between work and my studio practice. What I’m not lacking in is ideas, fortunately. I think the time spent focusing on a job (which I absolutely love, by the way), is giving me a fresh perspective on my work.

Take for instance, my new crow paintings. This series continues to evolve, thanks to a little outside inspiration from Haruki Murakami. If you have not read his Wind-Up Chronicles, I highly recommend it. And don’t give up. I actually was thinking of putting it down several times, but something kept me reading to the end, at which point I was totally enthralled.

Inspired by this experience, I’ve begun a new series of work, a sub-series of my crows, of “wind-up birds.”

Crows are tricksters and symbols of transformation, so in my mind the perfect candidate to play the part of the bird who “winds up the world” every morning.

Here is number one:

Wind-Up Bird No. 1, 2015, 6 x 6 inches, Mixed Media on Paper

And the second one:

Wind-Up Bird No. 2, 2015, 6 x 6 inches, Gouache on Paper

These are posing a challenge I haven’t resolved yet, which is combining the awkwardness of mechanics with the natural look of a bird. The parts don’t go. That’s the point. But there needs to be recognizability.

Before I go, I will leave you with this larger acrylic painting I just finished. I was inspired to paint this one snowy day when I looked outside and saw a crow sitting amidst frozen branches of the apple tree across the way. There was something very magical and peaceful about the scene.

In the Gloaming, 2015, 50 x 70 cm, Acrylic on Canvas

As always, you can see my newest artwork in my Etsy shop.

Hope you are keeping warm, friends. Until next time!


Big Changes and Goals for the New Year!

What will the road ahead bring?
What will the road ahead bring?

Hello, friends, and a very Happy New Year to each and every one of you. Sorry I’ve been out of touch, but I have a little  announcement to make. I have returned to full-time work and it has kept me very busy lately.

When I made the transition to being a full-time artist three years ago, I knew it might be a temporary sabbatical of sorts, which happened to dovetail nicely with other changes in my life. Namely, getting married and moving twice (once overseas) with my Air Force husband. At the time, I thought becoming a full-time artist would be the perfect job for me.

But no, I have missed working outside of the house… a lot. I have missed having other things in my life, nurturing other sides of myself. I’ve never been just one thing, but many different people coexisting as one – writer, creator, teacher, caretaker, editor – as I know most of us are. How can I only paint and not analyze, write, learn, and exercise all the skills I’ve acquired from two decades of working in various fields?

But what job would be best? The jobs I’ve enjoyed the most over my life were the ones I worked while I was making plans for bigger things and those jobs were all library positions. I’ve done archiving, cataloging, reference, information management, and circulation. I kept hoping a job at the base library would pop up when I did job searches over the past two years we’ve lived here in Germany. Finally, I got my chance. A position opened up and I seized it.

I love it so far, and I will be able to put a lot of my knowledge and interest in art into the work. I will be redesigning our newsletter and running art-related programs for our weekly Storytime and the summer reading program. The librarian has also asked me to put on a solo show of my work in the library’s little art gallery. I think I might even make a site-specific installation related to books and literature. I’m so excited to see what’s in store!

It has even got me thinking in a very serious way about going back to school for a library science degree, something I’ve pondered off and on for a long time. With the tuition assistance I may be able to secure through my job, it has never seemed so possible or desirable. (I hear Indiana University at Bloomington has an M.L.I.S with a focus on Art Librarianship.)

In the meantime, I refuse to slack off making art. I will never drop it again now that it has become such a daily part of life. In fact, here are a few goals I intend to work on over the next few months:

1. Continue with my “Knowing” series of paintings and create etchings for the series as well.

2. Create new small prints and cards to sell in the spring.

3. Begin selling my work on Saatchi online.

That should keep me busy, don’t you think?

Last year at this time, full of determination to make new work and take my artistic practice to the new level, I wrote in my journal, “This is the year I set myself free.” Once I had put that out into the universe, my work became more about my own emotional journey and it helped me to let go of a lot of things I had been carrying around.

From my Illumination series.
From my Illumination series.

I am moving forward and creating a more balanced life where my art-making is just one aspect of a full existence, balanced with other kinds of intellectual inquiry and service to others.

Yep, I really think 2015 is going to be the best year yet!

How about you, dear reader? What are your creative goals for the New Year?


Announcing My Annual Etsy Sale!


Today is the day! I have started my Black Friday-Cyber Monday sale early. So, here it is! Take advantage!

From now through Monday, everything in my shop is 15% off, no coupon code necessary!

Here are just a few examples:

Abstract Nightscape Christmas Cards
Deer on the Moon Etching
“Good Shave” Linocut Print (Great gift for any man on your holiday shopping list who loves a good old-fashioned shave!)


Abstract watercolors
Giclee prints

Hope you have a wonderful holiday!