The Horsemen of the 21st Century

The Horsemen of the 21st Century
The Horsemen of the 21st Century

The drawings have been getting darker over the past year.  In my new artist book The Horsemen of the 21st Century I remember an event from one night of camping in the Sierras.

We are tented on frosted ground near the edge of a night forest.
A pounding of hooves rushes close by.

Deer? we ask. Let’s hope it is not those four horsemen late for a logistics meeting.

Somehow I just can’t get past the feeling that those guys from the Bible and from the Fellowship of the Ring are more active than usual lately.

edition of 15

Ultra chrome pigments printed on Canson Infinity Rag Photographique, backed with Rives BFK and joined with Tyvek

Accordion fold construction with nylon tent material for a cover

The drawings are started in photoshop by drawing figure studies into transparent layers from which some lines are selected and combined in new ways with some of my photographs until a new image emerges.  They are printed archival on an inkjet printer, then bound into a book form.

Northwest River Stones

stonescase3-800photo: Randy Powell

All through the Northwest cold weather I worked on this collection of drawings, photos and assemblages about, to, and for the humble river stone. Like most humans they are abundant and self effacing (with a few notable exceptions!) and their beauty can be quite profound when one takes the energy to really look.

Here are some of my “rock people”.  You can click on the small images to inspect them more closely.

stonebooks3-800photo: Randy Powell

Each of the eleven sub-volumes opens in the manner of a stone rolling downhill and contains a part of my poem “Conversation with Stones” on its last page.  Each has a photo of a stone behind a screen of cut paper.  Each screen reflects something about the four drawings (prismacolor and graphite on black Arches).  Each sub-volume is hand bound in a style which someone may have done somewhere before me, but I suspect I made it up.

stonebooks1-800photo: Randy Powell

Each cover contains a sheet of Mica to look through.  Mica is a rock that separates into thin transparent sheets and breaks into sparkly  bits. In the research for this project I read that  mass burials of local Native Americans from the period of epidemics–brought on by collision with European cultures–are notable for their lack of Mica powder which was sprinkled over individual bodies of the dead in earlier times.



Printed on Asuka paper using an Epson Stylus Pro 9900 and Ultrachrome inks.

The book cloth is an artist-made layering of a loose weave linen on Arches Black (IIYEEEEE!  Hair pulling time!)

Special thanks to Randy Powell — artist, neighbor and a fellow graduate of School of the Art Institute of Chicago — for help with the documentation of this project.

Text of the poem, a slightly condensed version of the poem used in a previous artist book.

you are both the memory of a brook and
a message from the stellar stream.
You are
the life of mountains,
firm, solid air,
rigid wind
and …
you are resistant to authorization.

You are
as unquestionable as wild apples,
as verifiable as the mocking bird,
as indisputable as the moon,
you are undeniably obscure.
You are a history of torrents substantiated by passion,
you are the intent of small nows.
I am heavily seeking your eyes in my dreams.

You are adamantine laughter,
the strong, stony scent of earth
and the unyielding hooves of dreams.
You are a formidable condensation of lizards, grim swallows,
and difficulties of praise.
You are the austerity of stubborn of distance.

You are
the solidified lives of dragonflies,
hardened moss,
compacted fireflies,
a density of stars,
compressed stirrings of fury.
Unbreakable joy,
you are heavily verified
and …
a painfully proven crusher of ships.

You are
inflexible dust and impenetrable musings.
You are thunder from the sierra,
the clatter of the daily grind and the hiss of gradual loss.
Joy … and pain,
you are the waterfall and the river bed,
and the record of a marriage.
You need not speak of past difficulties. They are written on you.

Your language is long and slow. It takes two rocks and a river to say “clack”.
Your language is communal and patient. It takes many rocks and an ocean to say “clatter…hiss”.
I am an impediment to your sequence.

You are
You have journeyed from the center of the earth.
YOU are between the rock and the hard place.

You are all that is durable of dreams.

You are worn out, rounded energy,
sanded intensity,
polished integrity,
eroded ego,
abraded ambition.
You are the crumpler of ecclesiastics
and the one who grinds away the fiction of time.
You are
the sermon of abrasion,
the exhaustion of permissions,
and the diminishment of uniforms.

You say to me,
“I used to be a boulder but now I am a color singing in the river.”
You say,
I am the survivor stone,
the remnant.
You say, “The rock that was rejected by the builder has become the cornerstone.”
You sing how
you once destroyed a monster with a loaf of your bread,
and how you fed a village with a bowl of your soup.
You teach me how to prop open a door.

Music of the commune, you are the cloister stone – river stones and water.
You are a lessening of mountains,
the moments and the ruins of a search.
You cause the loss of rough edges.
“Noli te bastardes carborundorum” say the young. “It has happened” say the rest.

Heavily verified and
painfully proven,
you are a labor of lessening and profoundly wild.
You are the history of friction,
a cascade of attrition,
an abrasion of assurities.
You are the dwindling of certitudes,
the decrease of truisms.
You are the geography of erosion.
You grind down the hard nut.
Wear it down.
Wear it away.
You weather the choices.
You are a distillation of lessons
and a tutor to endurance.
You are the bones of the ridge.

There are two old stones in the shallows. Together they watch over the new generation of salmon.
Cla- -ack
Return to the universe.

Conversation with Stones container closed

Artist Books in the Digital Age

Just in case you are in the northern San Francisco Bay Area on Sunday, March 23, 2 – 4PM, check this out:

artist book by Jan Dove
Jan shows and tells at the McCune Collection.

There is a rare book and print treasury at the JFK Library in Vallejo called the McCune Collection.  Jan has been invited to lecture for about an hour in the McCune room on currents in the contemporary Artist Book making world.  She will show examples of some of her favorite contemporaries and then talk about some of her books which will be installed in the room. Q&A to follow.

It’s easy to find the library.  To find the McCune Room you must go around to the back parking lot.

You can enlarge this map by clicking on it.

map to McCune Room
Go around to the back parking lot.

The McCune Room is located on the lower level of
the John F. Kennedy Library
505 Santa Clara St.
Vallejo, CA 94590

Open Road

There are times when one must accept that one is not going to go on a road trip — of the physical type, anyway — for a while.  That is when a trip by poetry can provide what is needed.  I went back to Leaves of Grass by Walt Witman and was once again adrenalized by the exuberance and abundance of his spirit.  I had this little set of linoleum print scraps sitting on the back burner of the studio, and I discovered that his “Song of the Open Road” felt perfect for these images.

Click on any image to view an enlargement.

Visual Bon-Bon

Getting close to finishing an Idea which hatched during my residency at Blue Mountain Center, and that is a box of visual bon-bons.  In actuality they are geometric puzzles to which I added photographs, prints and drawings.  You can find these puzzles on the internet by searching for “flexagons”.

One fairly simple puzzle with an impossible flap grew into a little book named “Membranes”.

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Artist Book by Jan Dove
impossible flap puzzle grows into a book

“Membranes” is finished off with some batik cotton and coptic binding.

coptic binding

Next project: finish the box of bon-bons of which this book is one piece — I think.

Artist’s Studio at Blue Mountain

To make art you need time and a place.  I have been given the gift of a month of unobstructed time by Blue Mountain Center.  Staff here bends over backward to make my time here as productive as I want to make it.

As for a place, that could be a prison cell, a dining room table, a classroom, or as Virginia Woolf so famously phrased it, “A room of one’s own”.  Well I thought you might like to see my studio at Blue Mountain for the month.

You can click on any image on this page to see an enlargement.

The only problem is that it is too pretty.  I have not had enough time to really make it look like my space — messy.

I have finished an artist book I was working on before I came here.

"And the Mother Said", cover
“And the Mother Said”, cover
Artist book, And the Mother Said
“And the Mother Said”, fully opened

The images were mostly recycled scraps of prints.  I just didn’t know what they meant in their new context.

I was having a problem with discovering the text.  So Oola and I went to the screened-in thinking room shown above and we mentally grunted,

The text came out like this:


And the Mother Said

Enter your studio
Someone is there waiting for you.
Someone is waiting to be born.

Tell your Father
I have saved a place for him.
Tell him in the language of the crows.
Tell him in the woodland crowned with crows.

Tell him in beauty; tell him in your grief.
Tell him by the waters; cover him with salt.

Weave for him a blanket of grasses.
Sew for him a cloak of night feathers,
your anger’s lullaby.

Fly with him through slipping winds.
Fly with him to me.


When we were sitting down to dinner that evening Oola blurted out, “I wrote a poem today.  It was like squeezing a boil”.

Be Well
More Later

Road Trip to Dallas

It’s time to hit the road again.  Oola and I are going to Dallas – with stops along the way –  to a family wedding.

Before the camera, people on the Grand Tour would keep their observations in a sketchbook.  This ties in perfectly with my conviction that I remember places and things I take the time to draw much better than if I only take a photo.

I have this app that lets you draw and paint on the iPad with finger, stylus, or special brush.  The plan is to post a drawing each day.  It’s new to me, so let’s see if I gain any facility with it.  I also got an app that alerts you to roadside attractions along the way.  We’ll see what oddities we can find – and draw.

You can click on the drawing to see an enlargement.

Blue Prius
Mom’s Memorial and VW

Here is the first sketch.  In the parking lot, under the magnolia tree, ready to go.  On the left is Mom’s Memorial Prius, still with her bobble-headed chihuahua who has acquired the name Bruiser.  On the right is a Volkswagen van of venerable age.  It bears the decals of many trips, and would love to go, but, alas, is no longer a long-distance vehicle.  I have a greenish memory of morning sickness in this van, brought on by the child who is now getting married.

We’re leaving tomorrow morning, heading to the Sierras, maybe Tioga Pass.  We are trying not to plan to much in advance.  Just generally heading East.  Though we do have reservations to camp on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

The Hunger Curios

As a child I loved the Mother West Wind Stories by Thornton Burgess.  At the time I was not aware of the social commentary going on in the tales of these animals.  As an adult I found many references to topics like hunger.  I made this artist-book based on four of those references.

You can click on each picture to see an enlargement.

artist book, the Hunger Curios
The Hunger Curios, view 1

The book is meant to be experienced (like a cabinet of curios) as well as read.Artist Book, The Hunger Curios

Incorporated in The Hunger Curios are four smaller books of collages with quotations from Burgess’ work.

Artist book, The Hunger Curios
Getting into the book

It is important to me that my book not be an illustration of Burgess’ work.  It is more a visual rumination based on some of Burgess’ thoughts.

artist book, The Hunger Curios

As a digital artist, I find that I do not want to abandon the old ways.  Curious fact:

  • digit |ˈdijit|
    1 any of the numerals from 0 to 9, esp. when forming part of a number.
    2 a finger (including the thumb) or toe.
    • Zoology an equivalent structure at the end of the limbs of many higher vertebrates.
    ORIGIN late Middle English: from Latin digitus ‘finger, toe’; sense 1 arose from the practice of counting on the fingers.

So while digital refers to counting on the fingers and toes, it can also mean something that you make with your fingers (and – presumably – your toes).  I feel at home in either world.

artist book, The Hunger Curios

The experience of making the collages was liberating.  I had a bunch of old prints which I tore up and put back together heedless of the thought process.  Fast and dirty.  But since the old prints were printed on heavy watercolor paper, the ink cracked and seams broke open when I tried to make the accordion folds.  So I then scanned the collages and printed them on long-fiber Japanese paper, and lo….they were manageable.

Just as in childhood, I had to put the books away when Mother called.  So here is The Hunger Curios back in its cabinet.

Artist book, the hunger curios

If you wish to read through the small books, go to

Oola and I will be taking off in Mom’s Memorial Prius to attend a wedding in Texas.  I am planning on sending you a drawing or photograph a day.

Fourth Street Studios

Within the memory of living artists there  exists the dregs of an attitude toward photography that said, photography is not Art.  It is merely a technical production of an image.  Painting is “Art”.  This attitude has fortunately waned.

And I remember an art professor who insisted that etching was art, but silkscreen was not, because the ink in silkscreen sat on the surface of the paper while etching ink sank so luxuriously into the paper.

Nowadays there is a prejudice that sees only the “traditional” printmaking techniques as valid High Art, while art that is produced on the computer is supposedly not Art.  Ghosts of “giclee”, fugitive color issues, and the use of digital printing to simply reproduce images made in “traditional” media still dog the artist who creates images by digital means.

Well, Oola and I are here to tell you that “Art” is not about what materials or equipment are used.  Art is not even about the product.  Art is about the process of bringing an idea, or a nagging question, or a screech from the amygdala to life.  Or maybe it is just about the need to metaphorically scratch an itch.

We went to see three artists in the Fourth Street Studios in Berkeley who make art-prints by means of the computer.

You can click on any image below to see an enlargement that reveals more detail.

Kristin Doner
Kristin Doner

Kristin Doner makes her digital images by copying her finger prints on the scanner as the light moves under the glass.  She riffs on these fragments digitally, making abstract images of both delicacy and strength, and as the name “Wabi-Sabi” implies, elegant impermanence.  To see and read Kristin’s explanation of her process, see her blog

Kristin Doner, from the Wabi-Sabi Ikebana series

From a distance Matthew Silverberg’s HUUUUUGE prints look like glowing light, enough light that they are their own contexts.

Matthew Silvergerg
Matthew Silverberg

Then, when you get close to them you see myriads of stringed textures, like the “skeins” of thread or yarn implied in their titles.  If you know something about Photoshop you will recognize the work of combining many, many layers and modes.


You can see more of Matthew’s “Skein” series at

On the more photographic side of digital expression, Joanna Ruckman has created a marvelous series from her inheritance of her grandmother’s aprons.  The tales hidden in these digital composites are fascinating and moving.  Just bring your own experience and your imagination to her work.

Joanne Ruckman
Joanne Ruckman

I love this image for its reduction to absolute essentials: light and a breeze animating an apron, breathing memories to life. In Joanna’s words  “…memories are woven in to familial artifacts while exploring cultural boundaries and American tradition.”

Joanna Ruckman
Joanna Ruckman  – from the “Apron” series.

See more of this remarkable series at

So, like the Mysterious One says, “It ain’t the instrument, it’s the music you make with the instrument.”  Oola says that a teacher once told her not to say “ain’t”.  So Oola says to tell you this:  “Ain’t, Ain’t, Ain’t.”

Oola vs the Forces of Evil and Dismay


Click on the card to see a larger version.

Following on the chicken/egg question – and along the lines of  “Does language express our concepts, or does language create our concepts” – in this body of art and tomfoolery Jan asks “Are images the result of our perceptions, hopes, and fears, or do images create and perpetuate our cultural/social experience.”  How important is “High Art” and what is it doing to us?  Oola takes on all questions in her own inimitable style.

Oola rides again.  And there will be hotdogs with yellow mustard at her reception!  All welcome!