Artist Q&A: Carole Nelson

Carole Nelson, one of the artists in Two Artists, Many Journeys, will be flying in all the way from California to give her artist talk next Saturday, December 4, 1-4 pm.  If you can’t see her then, you can also meet her at the exhibition’s opening reception, Friday, November 3, 5-8 pm.  Can’t wait until then?  Read on for more insight to Carole’s woodblock prints:

Shiraz by Carole Nelson, Woodblock print, 2005

WPG: Your prints have been inspired by the time you spent in Iran, a place not many US citizens get to see.  What does the country, or at least the part you were in, look like and what impressed you most about the country?

CN: In the late 60s we lived in Shiraz, a city famous for gardens, poetry and hospitality. The landscape outside the City is best described as high plateau, bare and rocky between valleys with mountains at the perimeter. We lived in an old traditional Persian house, surrounded by walls, with an interior courtyard with tall persimmon trees, roses and a small central decorative pool. Wonderful gardens, private and public were everywhere. When we returned in 2004 Shiraz had urbanized, many gardens were gone, replaced with apartment blocks.  Our friends and their generous hospitality were still there. After our visit I felt a need to revisit Iran in a series of prints that attempted to recollect the colors, the shapes and feelings of those rare early years.

Ruya 1-Swing, by Carole Nelson, Woodblock print, 2010

WPG: Another series of prints, the “Ruya Series,” were inspired by a character in the novel The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk.  Could you give us a two sentence introduction to the book, and a quick idea of how we can see the influence in your prints?

In Orhan Pamuk’s 1990 novel, The Black Book, a writer searches in urban Istanbul for his missing wife, whose name is Ruya, dream in turkish and farsi. As he does this he experiences an identity transformation and the familiar places in the city become increasingly threatening. When I learned that Orhan Pamuk had also named his daughter Ruya, I thought of prints with a dreamlike search for a child and chose a vaguely sinister amusement park environment as the context. I think the Ruya print series will continue with its own transformations over time.

Natanz by Carole Nelson, woodblock print, 2010

WPG: You contrast some very beautiful subtle colors against bolder statement colors.  How has your sense of color developed as you developed as an artist?  Is it influenced by the colors you saw in Iran ?  A favorite color of printing ink?  Something else?

I came to color prints at the same time I came to painting. I wanted a print medium that would give me all the color options I loved in painting. I tried color etching and stone lithography, but couldn’t get the subtlety and vibrancy I wanted…I could only succeed with woodblock and hand printing. At that time there were no rules for painting, but many rules for printmaking, which I accepted without question. In order to assure a generous edition, I used inks out of the tube and cut a separate block for each color. I achieved color modulations with overlays. But as the years passed, without noticing that I was making this decision, the rules became less important and I mixed my own colors before application, used more transparent glazes, placed several colors on a block and added hand manipulations such as wiping and varied pressure. Recently I have mixed pigments on the block itself to achieve atmospherics reminiscent of the bokashi of Japanese prints.  The editions grew smaller, not that I could not come very close to replicating the first print. It is just that I find that I get great pleasure by moving on to another version of the same blocks or something completely new.

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2 responses to “Artist Q&A: Carole Nelson

  1. You mean December 3?

  2. oops, yes, DECEMBER 3!