Brian McCormick • Madison, WI • Watercolor & Woodblock Prints

In 2008, I left a career in architecture so that I could return to making art full-time. In the 1970s I had studied fine art at Western Illinois University and then went on to get an MFA in painting at the University of Notre Dame. While I was active exhibiting work during that time, I was unable to find supportive employment in the field and looked for another way to survive in an art-related occupation. I turned toward a career in architecture and received a Masters degree in Architecture from the University of Illinois in 1984. I worked as a Preservation Architect in Madison, WI.

One by-product of that career was the restoration of an 1854 stone farmhouse as a weekend retreat. The house sits just north of Galena in the rolling hills of the Driftless Region. The setting of woods, farm fields, prairie and the garden I maintain there are the inspiration many of my paintings and woodblock prints.

When returning to my artwork after years of letting it lie fallow, the main question I had was “what to paint.” I didn't question the medium; I had always believed that transparent watercolor had a directness and purity not found in other media. But what to paint? In the past my subject matter had changed from representational symbolism to very minimalist abstracts. When I began to paint again, I wanted it to be something accessible – not just to the viewer, but to me.

I was no longer involved in the “art world,” so it would not be genuine to try to make art about art. I was also not engaged by popular culture, a common subject of contemporary art. So I turned to nature and the landscape, something that I felt I was absorbed in. I have always gardened, have planted hundreds of trees in my lifetime, and enjoy a hobby of restoring old farm fields to native prairie plants.


Fenceline Oaks


Evening Burr Oak
woodblock print

I have more recently experimented in making woodblock prints. I've enjoyed woodworking for many years and so have started incorporating the love of working with wood into making art. Using wood scraps, I carve out a design to create a relief printing block. I ink the block, press paper against it, and rub the back using a "baren". The Japanese make beautiful and expensive barens for this purpose--and in the U.S. a printing press is more often used instead, but for now, I use an old wood cabinet knob as my baren.


Roadside Oaks
woodblock print


Outside the Lines Art Gallery • Connie Twining & Stormy Mochal, Owners
1101 Main St, Dubuque, IA 52001 • (563)-583-9343 • 101 S Main St, Galena, IL 61036
• (815)-776-9166

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