Bonding with Moths and Singing about Whippoorwills
On the evening of November 8, 2022, the Moon passed through Earth’s shadow for a total lunar eclipse. This “Blood Moon” (the last full lunar eclipse until 2025!) was the event that pushed me to finally finish a piece that started in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Once upon a day in the early covid-19 pandemic, I was walking by my brick apartment building to our community garden plot. It was the hottest part of the day and I happened to glimpse someone wriggling on the ground in some leaf cover. Almost twitching. On closer look, they were a beautiful large brown and pink moth, about the size of my palm. I had never seen a moth like them. They did not seem comfortable. In fact, if I remember correctly, they were on their side. I wanted to help them get comfortable so I put my finger out for them to grab onto. They climbed on and calmed down a bit in my open palm. After a short while, they gained their stability and flew up under the eaves of the brick building. Wings open and relaxed on the side of the brick. A Polyphemus moth. I was taken by them.
Shortly before finding the moth, I was laid off from my graphic design/ merchandising job. Cue listening to Songs: Ohia on repeat;
Still waitin’ // For you to sing that song again // The one you were singin’ at the very fall of man // It ain’t hallelujah but it might as well have been // Whip-poor-will // Oh whip-poor-will //
During these early months into the pandemic, I decidedly put all my effort into working on my own art for the first time in a decade or more. That October, I really dived into the yearly challenge of Inktober. It felt cathartic.
The prompt was WISP. I drew out this whippoorwill and Polyphemus moth on a bristol board to be inked in classic black (Looking back, I realize the prompt to image connection is from another gem by Songs: Ohia, “Willo-the-wisp!”). Even though it turned out to be a very developed drawing, I moved on to the next prompts without inking it. It sat hidden in my portfolio since.
I Work In Circles, Like The Moon
Fast forward to 2022, still in the pandemic, to November of the Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse. I wanted to honor the event by creating a new print, and on the evening of the eclipse, it occurred to me that I had a half finished moon drawing tucked away. What a poetic time to complete it! I went on a somewhat obsessive painting marathon that night. I finished the painting in time to create files to send to the printer for their earliest printing job (words of wisdom, November is not the time to put project requests to printers because EVERYONE is doing the same for the holiday season – learning!).
The Analog Magic of Ink
There is nothing like seeing the vibrant color of a mixed pigment in person. It is one of the many reasons why I love printmaking. However, I no longer use the equipment and processes I did back in college. Screen printing and risograph printing bring me back to the magical analog world of layering ink colors while still utilizing my favorite ways of mark making with ink and brush.
I painted this piece in colors that I could separate clearly into Photoshop channels. The original painting is made with bright red neon ink, ultramarine blue in gouache and colored pencil. I wasn’t thrilled with the colors, they seemed a bit harsh on the bright white of the bristol board but they worked wonderfully to set up my printing files. The final risograph prints are printed on a warm cream French Paper Co. Speckle-tone cover stock with fluorescent orange (pms 805 u) and steel blue ink (pms 302 u). I love that this piece is printed with soy based inks on recycled content. This is important to me because I often struggle with the fact that creating art uses resources and my goal is to be as sustainable as possible.
The final color-way is adjacent to the original painting, but with richer tones and warmer contrasts. The steel blue helps the fluorescent moon and overlays pop. Originally, I wanted to use metallic gold instead of the blue (a lot, I know). The layered inks couldn’t pull the same nuanced depth due to the nature of the metallic ink. So the next choice was steel blue and I’m so happy I went that route. The final print is much more vibrant in person than any camera can pick up on. I hope you love it as much as I do!