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November 2016

Maps for a New Book - Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire

Coll Thrush, a Washington state native and author of Native Seattle: Histories of the Crossing-Over Place, has written a new book published by Yale University Press: Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire. The Seattle Times has just published a glowing review of this already-lauded volume. Coll, an associate professor of history at the University of British Columbia, approached me nearly three years ago to commission me to draw the maps he wanted to include in his manuscript. 

Maps were needed to illustrate the locations of the Indigenous peoples who, over centuries, travelled to London to challenge decisions made by those in power over British colonialism in the Indigenous peoples' homelands. The maps were to include simple outlines of the land masses, hand lettered names of the Indigenous nations whose peoples traveled to London, some navigational lines (primarily for ornament), and titles. All four maps appear at the beginning of the book. The one featuring North America is shown below.



When Coll and I first met to discuss the maps, I showed him a sheet of calligraphy samples. He liked this sample as a basic style for the labeling:


"Rigoletto" was written directly with a calligraphy pen without any retouching. For the maps, I felt I needed to polish the letters by writing them in ink, scanning them, and retouching them in Photoshop. All elements on the maps needed to be crisp and clear when reduced to a small size for the pages of the books. Ultimately, each map was assembled and completed digitally which was not how I originally intended to create them.



Here is a sample of the finished letterforms, enlarged. After individual letters were retouched, I used them almost as if they were a font, placing each individual letter. Therefore, I could correct the spacing and alignment to a higher standard. For the capital letters I kept flourishes understated. 

In addition to my maps, Thrush has included dozens of antique engravings, photographs, excerpts from letters, and poetry. The result is an enriched manuscript based on extensive research and heartfelt interest in the Indigenous experience. 

On the back of the book jacket is this quote: This book confirms Coll Thrush's position as the best historian of place working in Native American and Indigenous studies today. Indigenous London is a major contribution to the growing scholarship of the Red Atlantic. Jace Weaver, author of The Red Atlantic: American Indigenes and the Making of the Modern World, 1000-1927. 

Congratulations, Coll, on a finely crafted, original work. 

Images from Nature: Blockprinting Workshop

I'd like to share some of the beautiful block prints created by the participants in last weekend's blockprinting class sponsored by the North Cascades Institute. Some of the students had done block printing in previous art classes, but for others this was their first experience with the medium. Others had been dissatisfied with previous attempts but all were interested in developing their designs to suit the bold, positive/negative imagery this medium offers. We had two days to work in the spacious studio at The Mountaineers Center on Sand Point Way in Seattle. The work testifies to the time and focus invested in the design, carving and printing of the blocks. Special thanks go to Katie Roloson, the program director for the Institute, and Frank, the facility manager for the Mountaineers Center.

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The first project was to design a small block using a leaf motif placed diagonally with mirrored positive and negative. As a pattern-making rubber stamp, this block served as a solid blank (the back) for printing a base layer. The carved surface was then printed on top. Each leaf block (some cut other motifs for this piece) was rotated to create a pattern of multiples. We used pigment-based stamp pads.

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For the second project (a block of 4" x 6"), each student selected his or her own subject matter. On the left, a study of heads of garlic seems ideal as a carved subject. On the right, the whale is rendered in a more traditional illustration style with borders. The artists had the option of tinting their oil-based inked prints with watercolor or leaving them uncolored. The ink used was black, oil-based relief printing ink formulated for rolling on the carved surface of the block with a brayer. 


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The slug image is shown here on the left before the entire background texture was removed by the artist. The final print had a spare, strong appearance (sorry, I didn't photograph the finished image). The octopus, by another student, stretches dramatically across the 4" x 6" surface.

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This graceful ginkgo leaf composition is especially enhanced by the addition of watercolor tinting. 

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A sea turtle commemorates a trip to the Galapagos by Katie Roloson, program director at NCI. The chanterelle mushrooms on the right are shown in a nocturnal setting next to their host tree trunk: a Douglas fir. 

Many thanks to all of the nature-loving artists who took the workshop!