Osprey, Mono Lake © Robert Sommers 2023

Saturday, July 18, 2020

California Dreaming

We antique and art dealers thrive on a network of kind souls called pickers.

These people delve into the nooks and crannies that those of us with shops could never find and are content to sell to us without wringing every last dollar out of the equation.

We could not exist without them.

A wonderful picker friend of mine found a bunch of old printing blocks in an estate sale near Julian somewhere.

He kept a few choice ones for himself and I bought the rest for a very reasonable sum.

My friend Dixon Fish is a master printmaker. I asked him to pull some prints from the blocks so I could see what we had and he agreed to do just that yesterday at the Fallbrook School of the Arts.

He cut some nice Arches paper and found the appropriate press for the job.

Then he prepared some soy based ink and inked up the woodblocks, that look to me like they were made in the 1930's or early 1940's.

He ran the inked blocks and paper through the press, expertly turning the large wheel at just the right speed and with the optimal amount of pressure.

Now mind you, these were just test prints so I was not looking for perfection.

Some were under inked and some were over inked and some were just perfect.

We could always improve them but I initially wanted to just see what they depicted.

It is always a wondrous feeling to pull the paper off of a block and observe the birth of an image.

Doubly fun when the original block is pushing ninety years of age.

These were pretty cool.

Tunnel View - needs a bit more ink, is that skunk cabbage in the foreground?

I really like this next one even though it got slightly over inked. It reminds me of Birger Sandzen's work in a way.

Redwoods and ferns

Monarchs of the Forest

The Gateway
Giant Redwoods of California

I really like them all but especially the one on the bottom. What is that, a Packard? They are all pretty cool. The General Sherman tree print also comes without the car in another print I have not pictured. All look like early tourist advertising.

I put the images into the Google reverse image search to see if they are in the global image bank but no luck with any of them. So the identity of their creator is eluding me, for now.

I paid Dixon for the paper and ink. My good friend and mentor donated his time. It was so nice of him to help me.

A couple of people stopped by and really liked them. The Gateway to the sun ripe fruits got a lot of nice comments. I am thinking of producing a little folio of them on nice paper with deckled and hand torn edges and selling them at an affordable price. Let me know if any of you are interested and we will pull some for you and tighten them up.

Nice little grouping of California advertising history.


Anonymous said...

Way cool so retro

Marlene said...

Love the prints and seeing Dixon at the Fallbrook School of the Arts!

Unknown said...

Wonderful. I have a photo of my grandparents standing by that tree.

Blue Heron said...

Funny, when I saw the Gateway print I told Dixon we had to color it. My friend Steve Saylor just wrote that he wanted that particular print to color as well. I like the dates in front of the oranges.

Anonymous said...

It looks like a couple of these cards left space for a "second run" of some press or other, another color woodblock perhaps or maybe going to a letterpress machine for each individual tourist trap to print their name and location on it. Really nice thanks Dixon for the printing and thank you for the share.

Ken Seals said...

Great story and fascinating prints!

Blumoon said...

I like the one with ferns

Wilbur Norman said...

Way Cool find!