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Obscure Figment
black/white, linocut, printmaking, whimsical, design, mark-making, decorative, pattern, organic, shape, negative space,child-like, illustrationist, line, balance, formal concerns,repetition, unify, composition, imaginary, figment of imagination, obscure,carved,process, educator, activist, scholar, rural life, urban life hand-pulled print, prints, wooden block print, rural life, form, elements of art, composition,
description

After Hone graduated from university, he had little access to a printing press and could only make hand-pulled prints. This was a long process and so he produced a small number of prints during those early years. In 1953 Kenneth Lochhead, who was director of the art department at Regina College (and whose work may be found in the ARTSask theme Place) encouraged Hone to carve a  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of wooden  printmakingA print is a shape or mark made from a block or plate or other object that is covered with wet colour (usually ink) and then pressed onto a flat surface, such as paper or textile. Most prints can be produced over and over again by re-inking the printing block or plate. Printmaking can be done in many ways, including using an engraved block or stone, transfer paper, or a film negative. The making of fine prints is generally included in the graphic arts, while the work of artists whose designs are made to satisfy the needs of more commercial clients are included in graphic design. (Artlex.com)  blocks. The images Hone carved were based on what he had observed in his rural and urban life. They were well received within the art community.

As Hone’s interest in printmaking expanded he decided to take a  sabbaticalOf or pertaining to the Sabbath; resembling the Sabbath; enjoying or bringing an intermission of labor. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary) In the academic world, usually a stretch of time during which faculty members are away from teaching, but doing research, travelling, writing a book, or engaging in some other work-related activity.  from teaching. In 1958 he studied wood  engravingA method of cutting or incising a design into a material, usually metal, with a sharp tool called a graver. One of the intaglio methods of making prints, in engraving, a print can be made by inking such an incised (engraved) surface. It may also refer to a print produced in this way. Most contemporary engraving is done in the production of currency, certificates, etc.  (Artlex.com)  with Gertrude Hermes at the London School of Arts and Crafts. After these studies, Hone was better able to suggest the definition of  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  in his subjects. In the work that followed he became more interested in abstraction and the works became less  representationalTo stand for; symbolize. To depict or portray subjects a viewer may recognize as having a likeness; the opposite of abstraction. A representation is such a depiction. (Artlex.com)  and more playful. In the 1960s  curatorAn individual or group, who conceives an idea for an art exhibition, selects the art works, plans how they will be displayed and writes accompanying supporting materials for the ideas presented. A curator can work freelance or be affiliated with a gallery, and serves as the link between artists and gallery.  Virginia Ebbels noted that with Hone’s images, “Decorative patterns and organic shapes took precedence over recognizable form.”  (Ebbels, 1985)

The  printAn exactly repeatable visual statement which exists as two-dimensional physical material.  Obscure Figment is a good example of the fantasy elements Hone pursued in his prints at that time. At first glance it looks like an active black-and-white  patternRepeating lines, colours or shapes within a design.  filled with a variety of textures. On closer examination a viewer can distinguish two bird-like characters who have human faces with crowns perched on the top of their heads. Are they the King and Queen of the barnyard? They are parting, and by the expressions on their faces, they have had words or some kind of disagreement. The male character storms off, while the female holds her ground in an abstracted garden setting.

Hone’s use of  lineA mark with length and direction(-s). An element of art which refers to the continuous mark made on some surface by a moving point. Types of line include: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight or ruled, curved, bent, angular, thin, thick or wide, interrupted (dotted, dashed, broken, etc.), blurred or fuzzy, controlled, freehand, parallel, hatching, meandering, and spiraling. Often it defines a space, and may create an outline or contour, define a silhouette; create patterns, or movement, and the illusion of mass or volume. It may be two-dimensional (as with pencil on paper) three-dimensional (as with wire) or implied (the edge of a shape or form). (Artlex.com)  in Obscure Figment creates a sense of movement and adequately defines the characters’ forms. A  balancePrinciple of design dealing with the arrangement of the visual elements in an art work to produce harmony of design and proportion.  of dark and light is achieved as the dark black areas provide relief and  contrastA large difference between two things. It is a technique often used to create a focal point.  to the busy carved-out white details. Repetition of circles and triangular shapes unify the whole composition. This print adheres to the philosophy of working Hone adopted in his university days in Saskatoon, as Virginia Ebbels notes: “[Early prints] show Hone’s analytic approach to  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  and  compositionArrangements of elements in a work of art.  in which only the scene’s fundamental details are represented.” (Ebbels, 1985)

McGregor Hone titles this  printAn exactly repeatable visual statement which exists as two-dimensional physical material.  Obscure Figment. A ‘figment’ is an imaginary thing or a product of the imagination. It comes from the interior of the mind.  Hone’s choice of the word “obscure” in the title could mean it is unnoticed or difficult to understand.
 
While block printing is not widely practised, it has a charm, and Hone was a master at capturing this in his works.  Hone carved his wood blocks throughout his lifetime, “His reason, simply stated, is that he enjoys the fight with the block.” (Ebbels, 1985)

additional resources Things to Think About
  • McGregor and Beth Hone built a home in Lumsden, Saskatchewan, so they each could have a living space with studio for their individual practices. Their solution was to build three geodesic domes; one for their home and two smaller forms for their individual studios. The domes were the first of their kind to be built in Saskatchewan. What could be some of the practical advantages and problems of building using this system?
  • What are some of the other kinds of printing and printmaking available to artists in their practices?
Online Activity
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Making an instant print using technology

Carve out some lines by using the Drawing tool (located under the drawing window) to draw black lines on a brown/wood background.

Press the Reflect button (located under the drawing window) and the image will rotate/change so that the black lines become white lines on a black background and a backwards image of the original appears.

 

Studio Activity

Design a coloured greeting card

Beginning in 1937 and for 68 consecutive years MacGregor Hone created a Christmas greeting card  printAn exactly repeatable visual statement which exists as two-dimensional physical material.  that reflected some aspect of the outgoing year.

Greeting card

Look at Hone’s use of black-and-white and  patternRepeating lines, colours or shapes within a design.  in the image Obscure Figment. Also look at Russell Yuristy’s  printAn exactly repeatable visual statement which exists as two-dimensional physical material.  (see here) from the ARTSask Humour theme.

  • Design your own image while keeping some of the ideas from the Hone and Yuristy artworks in mind.
  • Decide on the colours you want and break them down into blocks of colour
  • Carve out the areas you want to remain white.  BE CAREFUL TO ALWAYS CARVE AWAY FROM YOURSELF!
  • Let your prints dry and carve out every area you want to be the first colour printed.
  • Make sure to always keep your work area and your hands clean.

Using a  linoleumLinoleum is a durable, washable material formerly used more for flooring as vinyl flooring is used today. It is usually backed with burlap or canvas, and may be purchased adhered to a wooden block. The linoleum can be cut in much the same way woodcuts are produced, however its surface is softer and without grain. Also refers to a print made with this method. Linoleum cuts have been made by Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954) and Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973).  (Artlex.com)  print, an artist is able to reproduce an image many times and send the images to friends and family.  Why not start this kind of  traditionTradition is the passing along of a culture from generation to generation, especially orally. Or, a custom or set of customs handed down in this way. The idea of heritage is related to that of tradition. Any activity — as a pattern of celebration, ritual, or other behaviour, etc. — is traditional once it is a precedent influencing comparable activities in the future. (Artlex.com)  for your friends and family?

Create your own Obscure Figment

  • Look for images and forms within the complex menagerie of lines you have created.
  • Develop your idea.
  • Write a story to accompany your image.
  • If you are so inclined, continue the drawings and the story and compile them into a book format.

Create a book and illustrate it

Mac and Beth Hone worked collaboratively to create a book titled Return to Ithaca based on the return of Ulysses in Homer‘s Odyssey. It was inspired by listening to Claudio Monteverdi’s (1567-1674) opera Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (1641).

  • Work collaboratively with a friend to illustrate a classic story, opera or play or write your own story.
  • For more information about the Odyssey, go to:

Inspiration from another artist’s works

Hone did a  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of 10 paintings after viewing and appreciating three works done by Paolo Uccello. The paintings were  commissionedA contract between an artist and an individual. The artist agrees to create an image or design for the individual for a predetermined price.  by the Medici family to  commemorateTo honour or to serve as a memorial or monument to.  (Artlex.com)  a 1432 battle where Florence was victorious over the Sienese. As writer Greg Beattie states, ”Hone was struck by the dispassionate attitude adopted by Uccello. Far from depicting the reality of war, the artist injected his work with a  surrealAn art movement in the early 20th century based on dreams, and the subconscious, and the distortion of representations.  air - the horses, for example, resemble carousel horses.” (Beattie, 1996)

Beattie goes on to say, ”With each  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  in the series, Hone takes an isolated element from one of the Uccello originals and modifies it. But he retains Uccello‘s dispassionate attitude.” (Beattie 1996)

  • Select an artist’s work that resonates with you.

Drawing based on a riddle

In a  printAn exactly repeatable visual statement which exists as two-dimensional physical material.  that Hone created, A Small Chest, he presents the text, “A small chest under the table filled with the bones of mice.” Can you guess what the answer is? You are right, Hone has a large cat with a small table and chair in the background. To make the point even clearer he shows an x- ray of the cat and we can see the interior filled full of small little mouse bones.

  • Think of a riddle you would like to present as a drawing.
  • Use text to ask the question and use an image for the answer.
  • For more information and ideas about riddles and to have some fun with them see:
References

Author unknown.  ‘Hone.’  Regina Leader Post, July 19, 2007.

Beattie, Greg.  ‘Hone resists Classification.’  Regina Leader Post, December 28, 1996.

Ebbels, Virginia.  McGregor Hone: Block Prints.  Exhibition catalogue.  Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1985.

Kyle, Anne.  ‘Good-hearted Man.’  Regina Leader Post, July 20, 2007.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning