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Not the First January 1, 2009

Posted by cbuchanan in Uncategorized.
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Yesterday marked five years since I first took some pieces to Naked Art, essentially launching my life in printmaking. And it’s been such an amazing, fun ride. It’s especially enjoyable to see how people react to the Birmingham prints–and that always encourages me to wander the city in search of more cool subjects.

In the past few years I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who views Birmingham as a piece of art. I’m following in the footsteps of some great artists–and particularly great printmakers–who have been inspired by the Magic City over the last century.

In my last post I mentioned Frank Hartley Anderson, who along with his wife, Martha, became nationally known for his prints of Birmingham people and places. Recently I’ve discovered Richard Coe, who painted and printed the city in the 1930s. When you follow that link, click the first three images on the right side–those are my favorites. I especially like that print in the center, and I’ve seen another print that looks a lot like the painting of the gas towers with the skyscrapers behind them. I think Coe does a great job of capturing Birmingham’s energy of that era–the oil and ink may be dry, but for me these pieces are in motion. I also am fascinated by the fact that I recognize many of the views and buildings in his art; I could go visit them today and stand in the same spots he did.

Birmingham seems to have been something of a printmaking hotbed in the first half of the 20th century. It even filtered down to the high schools. Take a look at these 1937 and 1938 calendars created by the Pen and Ink Club at Phillips High School and now housed at the Birmingham Public Library. Now I would assume that the Pen and Ink Club would focus on drawings, but many of the artworks in those calendars look a lot like block prints–or perhaps they’re drawings in a block-print style. (A lot of 1930’s art, particularly pieces created as part of the Works Progress Administration, has that bold, structured look.) The second calendar is all Alabama images and features several Birmingham scenes. I am impressed at how good these prints/drawings are, and I find them very inspiring–it’s fun to compare my versions of Electra, steel mills, and the skyline with theirs. I would love to know if any of the artists who made them are still around town.

There were even more Birmingham-centric printmakers active during that time, and while I don’t know much about them yet, I’m going to do a little digging and post some info when I do.

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