architecture student on a discovery via north dakota

Advanced Printmaking: Woodcut: The Deadly Blue Ringed Octopus Lady

This semester, I enrolled in an advanced printmaking class focusing on woodcut taught by Jason Moore at NDSU.  We have two woodcut projects this semester.  The first is going to be displayed at the Plains Art Museum with MSUM and NDSU printmaking students. The Plains Art Museum (in downtown Fargo, ND) requested that all students incorporate a chosen theme: Flooding or Flood Prevention.  I was instantly inspired by a documentary I recently watched called Deadly Dozen where they featured the deadly Blue-Ringed Octopus- a fascinating creature.  I was captivated by the creature’s defense mechanisms and the colors it was able to produce when threatened.

In my last printmaking class, I used vintage advertising as the overall theme of 5 different prints.  Some of the images included pin ups, animals and somewhat humorous alterations to typical advertising.  I am still very much influenced by many of these ideas.

Fargo is a city known for flooding and this topic is common in projects.  When we were given this theme,  I wanted to question the topic of flood and flood prevention to see how I could put my own twist to it in my woodcut.

The final drawing came to be a woman morphing into a Blue-Ringed Octopus.  Instead of trying to adapt the flooding to our needs and contain it with sandbags, this print shows the human adapting to the desires of nature and it’s surroundings, morphing into a creature that can coincide with the temperament of flooding.  An octopus, or course, has 8 legs but the Octolady here has 6 full tentacles, two that have been removed or seemingly cut off.  This is to show a complete difference in the upper half of the body being like a human and the bottom half fully transformed into an octopus.

The shadow adds depth to the image but also could be interpreted as the ink that the octopus dispenses when feeling threatened.  Instead of having the Octopus residing in water, water is contained in a bottle sitting on her neck as a head.  This shows peace in her mind or even a memory when the Octolady is showing many signs of feeling threatened.  The background shows corrosion or rust that occurs from time or too much water.

The colors were simply chosen from the colors of the Blue-Ringed Octopus (Orange, Yellow, Blue, Black and Brown). The background color was chosen because of its similarity to the color of the paper and the contrast to the other colors in the foreground.

The project was both a physical process and mental development with ideas.  I can’t say that I knew all of this information right away when creating it; rather I tried to leave some decisions up to intuition and impulse, therefore, the outcomes presented itself to me through the process of carving, etching, and printing.

More information on the deadly Blue-Ringed Octopus:

The first image shows my final sketch for the woodcut. The second image is the inverted template I used in the laser cutter to burn out the crackled and rusted background pattern. The next two images show the laser cutter hard at work.  The fifth image shows the first layer of ink on paper (the rusted pattern from the laser cutter).  The last image shows my second layer of ink, a rainbow roll technique, for the background of the octolady.  The brown spots towards the top of the last image are parts of the ship in the bottle and the cork in the bottle. The next image shows the detail in the tentacles in the burnt orange color and a magenta flag of the ship in the bottle.  Next is the  blue rings of the octopus and the water contained in the bottle.  Last, is the black ink that is the outlines, the shadows, the cross-hatching, and bottle shape.

Part of the assignment was to use the laser cuter for one part of the woodcut.  The rest of the images are carved by hand with woodcutting tools.

Printmaking is an incredible class to take at NDSU.  We have incredible facilities for many processes of printing.  It takes us back to how advertising was originally done and there’s nothing more rewarding than using   your hands, sweat and sometimes blood to create something.  I would recommend this class to everyone!

I’ll keep you posted on further developments! Thanks for taking a look!


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