Recent Printmaking

The last quarter of the year I was busy with different types of printmaking, including two prints for Baren printmaking exchanges. They usually have themes, which is fun and frustrating at the same time. Frustrating when I can’t come up with an idea, but luckily for the two exchanges I did I had ideas right away.

Our first exchange was themed “When It’s Hot, It’s Hot”. My mind immediately went to the plight of polar bears in the Arctic. After watching many nature programs on the bears lately, I could picture what’s been happening. Lack of ice. So my print developed into a polar bear stranded on a rocky coast, no sea ice in sight.


Here’s a quick walk through the 4 color reduction prints I did, at a size of 10 x 15 inches. The reduction print is also known as a ‘Suicide Print”. Once you carve each layer, there’s no going back. The first layer carved leaves what you want white, and the color you overlay is the lightest color.

Polar Bear Layer 1
Color layer 1

Then you carve away everything you want to stay that light color. That’s why it’s a suicide print. There’s no going correcting once you carve away the light color. After that, you print with a darker color, finish, and carve away that darker color, leaving the darkest color last to be printed. At least for a 4 layer color print. You can have as many layers of color as you want.

Polar Bear layer 2
Color Layer 2
Polar Bear 3rd Layer
Color layer 3
Polar Bear Print Final Layer
Color Layer 4

Right after the polar bear print, I did another exchange print, which was themed Holiday Season/Loved Ones. Continuing on with my current events interest, I titled this one “What Yellowstone Tourists See”, with an image of a bison decked out to look innocent and Holiday-ish. I’m always mystified by the continual urge for tourists to pet the fuzzy cows. And get gored.

What Yellowstone Tourists See
What Yellowstone Tourists See

And here’s what my lino block looked like after I finished carving everything away. Just the red holiday lights are left from the full image on the block. (The green is from a previous layer)

Last layer Buffalo Print

Want to see more prints and how other artists handled the themes? Click for the Baren Printmaking Exchange forum

I was having so much fun with the reduction prints, I did one on my own, no exchange. This was an owl, where I played with darker colors and making the inks more transparent on certain layers. The line marks around the owl are known as “chatter”, where the paper dips down into the carved out area and picks up some ink. If it bothered me, I’d mask out the owl but I kind of like chatter on a print.

When Owls Hoot

While all that was going on, I worked on my Whiteline Printmaking. This is a technique where you only use one block, carve around each image to generate white lines, then hand-paint each image with watercolors. So you are painting the watercolor on the sections between the whiteline cutouts. It eliminates the need for carving separate blocks or making multiple reduction prints. Each image can come out slightly different. I like House 5 the best, out of the 12 prints I’ve done so far. Carving is tedious, printing goes faster. See house examples below. (Excuse the craptastic photography. Light out in studio.)

House 1
19 High 2
House 2
19 High 3
House 3
19 High 4
House 4
19 High 5
House 5

One more Whiteline print experimentation – Hurricane print.

Hurricane print

Click for Whiteline Woodcut Examples

Lastly, I started experimenting with Gel Printing, a monoprint technique where you use a soft silicone plate to transfer the paint/ink to the paper. No printing press required. Just paint and/or stencil on the plate and rub with your hand. Each image is unique (monoprint) and you can make collages or embellish afterwards. It’s less fussy than regular printmaking. Unless you want to be fussy. Which occasionally I do. Something is soothing about repetition. You may notice I do like more graphic images, rather than realistic.

gel print 1
gel print 2
gel print 4
gel print 6

So that’s what I’ve been up to the past few months art-wise. How about you? What have you been up to?

Links to Method Descriptions

White Line Woodblock Printing – You Tube

Drypoint Printmaking

What is Relief Printmaking

History of Lino Block Printmaking

Other Posts on Printmaking and The Creative Process From This Blog

More Lessons From Printmaking

Using Weaving for Bursts of Writing Creativity

A Meditation on Walking and Writing

The Renaissance Woman Today

New Poetry Chapbook – Prayer Gardening

I’m pleased to announce the release of my newest poetry book, the chapbook Prayer Gardening, co-authored with poet Kathleen Cassen Mickelson. We’ve worked together for years, first as co-founders of Gyroscope Review poetry magazine, then exchanging poems for critiques. Our work covered similar interests and themes, and this collection grew organically out of our poetic conversations.

Prayer Gardening speaks of the way we connect to each other, nature, and the world around us. It takes a deep dive into what makes us human, and how we forge relationships. The chapbook alternates between two voices that explore connections and discover our similarities more than our differences.

Collaboration Discussion and Reading by the authors.

In this video we discuss how we came to collaborate, and the joys and pitfalls of working with another author toward a common goal.

Please enjoy the sample reading below of two of the poems from Prayer Gardening, one from me, and the other from my co-author, Kathleen Cassen Mickelson.

Morning Worship” by Constance Brewer

Night Poem # 1 by Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

Prayer Gardening is available from Kelsay Books:

Prayer Gardening

Prayer Gardening is also available on Amazon:

Prayer GardeningAmazon

Or available from the author

constance (dot) brewer (at) gmail (dot) com, or through this website’s contact form.

Prayer Gardening by Brewer & Mickelson

Praise for Prayer Gardening:

Constance Brewer writes in Prayer Gardening, “my eyes adjust to nuance,” and my eyes do too, as a reader of this evocative chapbook that explores daily life with fresh eyes. These are poems of gratitude, in Kathleen Cassen Mickelson’s words, for the landscape “in which I love everything/the traffic, the gas pumps/the bus bench, the library…,” while also acknowledging “the hunger beneath every song.” The interplay between the two poets immerses us in family relationships, encounters with the natural world, and most of all, a mature understanding of the contradictions in all of our lives, for “What is love but a failed picture of the moon.”

–Joanne Durham, author of To Drink from a Wider Bowl and On Shifting Shoals

The earth-toned poems in Prayer Gardening by Constance Brewer and Kathleen Cassen Mickelson burble along the riverbank, lace themselves among the trees, tease us through seasons, give us glimpses of dreams, the yeasty smell of bread rising, the moon, angels, and even origami. And, oh, the birds—glorious, full-throated, “each voice as one small part of a choir,” (KCM) “light arrowing down/ to anoint… with purpose”(CB). Though there are two distinct voices here, one cannot help but deduce they are both channeling the same dazzling earth-centric deity.

-Kari Gunter-Seymour, Ohio Poet Laureate, author of Alone in the House of My Heart

Prayer Gardening sparkles with birds, stars, and snowflakes. In these pages we feel touch “sweep my soul/back into my body” and “hear the hunger beneath every song.” Constance Brewer and Kathleen Cassen Mickelson’s words call us to “whisper thanks for this breath,” reminding us to fully inhabit our lives—as the best poetry always does.  

– Laura Grace Weldon, 2019 Ohio Poet of the Year, author of Portals  

My previous book, Piccola Poesie: A Nibble of Short Form Poems is also available on Amazon.

Piccola Poesie is a collection of different versions of short form poems, haiku, senryu, tanka, and American sentences. The book explores the possibilities of each for the modern poet.

Piccola PoesiePaperback Piccola PoesieKindle

Piccola Poesie - poems by Constance Brewer

Link to my books

Link to other poetry books from Gyroscope Press

Five Poems That Pulled Me Into Poetry

Do you remember which poems pulled you into poetry? The ones that dazzled and beguiled you? I was given a book of poems very early by my grandmother and grew fascinated by the rhythm and the words. I was lucky enough to have elementary school teachers that emphasized poetry in their literature lessons. Memorizing a poem gave me a friend to recite in my head whenever I needed. Of course, a steady diet of Shakespeare in high school helped me fall in love with poetry also. Here are the five poems, in no particular order.

First Poem

My grandfather gave me a book that had the following poem in it. Among all the others it stood out. I didn’t live near the ocean, just visited it on vacations, but the poem has such longing and romanticism in it I couldn’t help but be enraptured. I was always reading history and historical novels in school, so this one captured my imagination.

    Sea Fever
    by John Masefield

    I must go down to the seas again, to the
          lonely sea and the sky,
    And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer
          her by;
    And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and
          the white sail’s shaking,
    And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey
          dawn breaking.
    I must go down to the seas again, for the call
          of the running tide
    Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be
    And all I ask is a windy day with the white
         clouds flying,
    And the flung spray and the blown spume, and
          the sea-gulls crying.
    I must go down to the seas again, to the
          vagrant gypsy life,
    To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where
          the wind’s like a whetted knife;
    And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing
    And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the
          long trick’s over.

Second Poem

I have a very old copy of the Complete Poems of Robert Frost. I don’t know where it came from or how long I’ve had it, but this poem is bookmarked. It is very evocative and reminds me of Christopher Marlowe’s poems. Of course I love all the classic Frost poems, “The Road Not Taken”, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, “Birches”, “Mending Wall”, and “Nothing Gold Can Stay”.

    A Line-storm Song
    by Robert Frost

    The line-storm clouds fly tattered and swift, 
      The road is forlorn all day, 
    Where a myriad snowy quartz stones lift, 
      And the hoof-prints vanish away. 
    The roadside flowers, too wet for the bee,
      Expend their bloom in vain. 
    Come over the hills and far with me, 
      And be my love in the rain. 

    The birds have less to say for themselves 
      In the wood-world’s torn despair
    Than now these numberless years the elves, 
      Although they are no less there: 
    All song of the woods is crushed like some 
     Wild, easily shattered rose. 
    Come, be my love in the wet woods; come,
      Where the boughs rain when it blows. 

    There is the gale to urge behind 
      And bruit our singing down, 
    And the shallow waters aflutter with wind 
      From which to gather your gown.    
    What matter if we go clear to the west, 
      And come not through dry-shod? 
    For wilding brooch shall wet your breast 
      The rain-fresh goldenrod. 

    Oh, never this whelming east wind swells   
      But it seems like the sea’s return 
    To the ancient lands where it left the shells 
      Before the age of the fern; 
    And it seems like the time when after doubt 
      Our love came back amain.      
    Oh, come forth into the storm and rout 
      And be my love in the rain.

Third Poem

Then there’s Emily Dickinson. She wove in and out of my early poem reading, and I fell in love with her succinct style that said so much. She’s still one of my favorite poets. Setting Sail, as it got titled somewhere along the way, is one poem I memorized because it speaks to me as a landlubber who finally went out to sea.

    Emily Dickinson



    Exultation is the going
    Of an inland soul to sea, —
    Past the houses, past the headlands,
    Into deep eternity!

    Bred as we, among the mountains,
    Can the sailor understand
    The divine intoxication
    Of the first league out from land?

Fourth Poem

I stumbled across High Flight while reading some WWII history. Our family has close ties to aviation, my father worked in the industry. Some vacations we’d drive out to that city’s airport and watch the planes take off and land. There were pilgrimages to the Air and Space Museum. In the Army I even put in to fly helicopters. Alas, my eyesight wasn’t good enough. 

John Gillespie Magee Jr., the RAF poet, wrote very few poems during WWII but sent them to his parents in letters. He was killed in a training accident on December 11, 1941. I think of this poem whenever I hear one of my favorite songs – Pink Floyd’s Learning to Fly. Both speak to pilots, astronauts, and wanna be flyers everywhere.

    High Flight
    by John Gillespie Magee Jr.

    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    of sun-split clouds,—and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
    I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air ....

    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark nor ever eagle flew—
    And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Learning to Fly video


    Learning to Fly

    Into the distance, a ribbon of black
    Stretched to the point of no turning back
    A flight of fancy on a wind swept field
    Standing alone my senses reeled
    A fatal attraction is holding me fast
    How can I escape this irresistible grasp?

    Can't keep my eyes from the circling sky
    Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I

    Ice is forming on the tips of my wings
    Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything
    No navigator to find my way home
    Unladened, empty, and turned to stone

    A soul in tension that's learning to fly
    Condition grounded but determined to try
    Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies
    Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I

    Friction lock, set
    Mixtures, rich
    Propellers, fully forward
    Flaps, set - 10 degrees
    Engine gauges and suction, check

    Above the planet on a wing and a prayer
    My grubby halo, a vapor trail in the empty air
    Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
    Out of the corner of my watering eye
    A dream unthreatened by the morning light
    Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night

    There's no sensation to compare with this
    Suspended animation, a state of bliss
    Can't keep my mind from the circling sky
    Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I

    Songwriters: Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne
    For non-commercial use only.

Last but not least

Of course, no influence of mine would ever be complete without the main man himself, William Shakespeare. I ran into Shakespeare in high school English class, first in plays we acted out, then through the sonnets. There are many sonnets I like, sometimes it depends on the day and how I’m feeling. But if I had to choose just one, this would be it.

    William Shakespeare
    Sonnet 14: Not From The Stars Do I My Judgement Pluck

    Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck;
    And yet methinks I have Astronomy,
    But not to tell of good or evil luck,
    Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
    Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
    Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
    Or say with princes if it shall go well
    By oft predict that I in heaven find:
    But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
    And, constant stars, in them I read such art
    As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
    If from thyself, to store thou wouldst convert;
    Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
    Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.

You may sense a theme in all these poems. I never realized until I started keeping track of all the poems that moved me. I have a folder, My Great Big Pile O’Inspiration, for when I just need to immerse myself in words I love. How about you? Any poems that have wended their way into your heart?

Other Essays on Poetry

Poetry Submissions for the Rest of Us

Why I Don’t Write Political Poetry

What I Learned From Editing

Outside Links

The 32 Most Iconic Poems in the English Language

Poetry Foundation


Backwards This Language Is

I think I’m too literal to learn a new language. I’ve been studying German for the past few years now and can’t come to grips with some of the Yoda-like sentence structure. My mind wants it neat and orderly like English. I hate having to chase verbs all over the sentence. But every once in a while, my mind will parse a sentence without effort, Yoda-like or not. That fans the flame of hope.

I’ve been using a mix of Duolingo, Babel, videos, and various books to try and learn, hoping what grammar tidbits not said in one thing will be addressed in another. The linear mindset at work again. I want logic, damnit, and explanations that make sense. A video on YouTube promised a foolproof way to figure out Der, Die, Das as they relate to masculine, feminine and neuter nouns. A concept I struggle with. Moon is masculine, Sun is feminine, and Sea is neuter. Linear brain balked. The promised way was not foolproof, and all my other sources finally said, “Eh, just memorize them.” Short of swallowing a dictionary, I don’t see how.

Flash me

Flashcards to the rescue. Through sheer repetition, I’ve got a lot of the articles nailed down. Maybe that’s how to deal with a somewhat linear brain. Hammer things home. Okay, bludgeon. I slowly started picking up the forms for different cases. It’s like elementary school Daily Oral Language lessons all over again. Without the chalkboard dust. Just papercuts.

Sprechen Sie Deutsch

In a fit of optimism, I started learning yet another language. Norwegian. I found that the German study was helping me pick up Norwegian a little quicker. A lot of words are similar to German, just spelled differently. I admit to substituting a German word when I couldn’t remember the Norwegian one. I’m sure Norwegians would understand. I like the Norwegian language. Sometimes there is a Yoda sentence, but articles don’t change willy-nilly, and I got used to the umlauts, just like in German. Linear brain seems content with Norwegian.

You know what else you need?

Then I thought hey, I took Spanish for four years in High School, how hard could it be to relearn? (Rational brain, linear’s smarter brother, said, “Don’t add another language. Don’t. Please.”.) Happily, I did remember a lot of the language. And it’s not close enough to German or Norwegian to trip me up. Linear brain is still struggling with question formatting, however.

Speed Limit in German

I’ve grown to like the hardness of spoken German, and its barked commands. The lilt of Norwegian is nice, and so is the flow of Spanish. I peeked into Danish just to see how close to Norwegian it was. Close enough, but am I going to Denmark any time soon? No. Norway? Probably not. Closest I’ve come is watching Ice Road Rescue (set in Norway) on Disney Plus. Bonus, I even picked up a swear word or two. We’re thinking about a trip to Germany. At least I can converse on the level of a five-year-old. Spanish just seems handy to know.

Derectius Cerebri

Where does this leave linear brain? Learning to relax. Not every word has to be in rigid order, which actually makes it easier to write my poems and novels. Not sure why but chilling out over language makes it easier to approach my work with an open mind. If linear brain needs some structure that day, I can always recite the alphabet in 4 different languages. So of course Amazon offered up a copy of a Wheelock’s Latin textbook really cheap. Who could pass that by? I’ve always wanted to learn Latin…

Other Essays

Is Writing Time Absolute?

Figuring it Out as You Go

The Value of Silence in an Uncertain World

Philosophy Class Refresher Course

Language Resources



Language 101


Online language Dictionaries




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