The Night, and the Rain, and the River

{This post must begin with a disclaimer: it's sorely, ridiculously, inexcusably overdue. But this project deserves a place here, and so better late than not at all.}

In the spring of 2013 (2013!!) I met Laura Stanfill while I was working at a local art fair. She and I chatted a bit over my table of letterpress printed goods, and she told me about her new publishing venture, Forest Avenue Press, a small independent press that would feature "quiet novels for a noisy world" and would ideally include illustrations from local artists in each publication.

Happily, our hurried first connection at a busy craft fair resulted in Laura and I meeting for coffee, and I got to hear more about her vision for the press and the impressive roster of authors and anthologies already lined up for future publication. I was all too happy to say yes when Laura asked if I would be interested in creating some letterpress printed art for the cover of an upcoming anthology.

So a few months later I began working on drawings for The Night, and the Rain, and the River, 22 stories edited by Liz Prato. Liz had been meticulously reading and editing the stories that were to go into the collection, and it was a pleasure to work with her, and Gigi Little, Forest Avenue Press' graphic designer over the weeks attempting to perfect a shared vision.

This was the very first sketch I made after reading a sample of stories from the collection. I like to sketch using Sharpie pens so that I don't become too precious with my ideas. Once I make a sketch like this I move on to others, then let them sit for a while before I come back to see what resonates.

Tiny little hashmarks on the linoleum. I also used Sharpies to draw directly onto the linoleum to create the rough shape of the "wave", and then I simply free-handed the marks.

The print with two colors, ready for the third, darkest layer of ink.

Recently I've been moving toward working in a simplified style using small tick marks in linocuts to create texture and to define form, and I decided to use linocut blocks only for this project. After reading a small selection of stories from the compilation, I got a feeling for the themes and connections that could inspire me. The stories were indeed quiet, but there was often the sense of a deep impulse, or strong, dark undertow running below the calm surface. In one story the image of looking at the sky's light through water, and the deepening dark of lake water struck me particularly, and it felt as if that sense carried through to many of the stories.

The print with all three layers of color.

It was a bit of a challenge for me to find just the right balance between creating an image that would translate well to the book cover while maintaining the imperfect characteristics of letterpress printing and linocut. In that, Gigi took my humble print and elevated it to Book Cover. I especially love what she did on the back cover. But to see that you'll have to buy the book. You can do so at here, at Forest Avenue Press online, or at Powell's bookstore, Annie Bloom's Books, or Broadway Books to name a few.

Addendum: If you're interested in purchasing one of the original letterpress block prints from this small edition, you may order here!