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Native Son

Nikki Grattan | September 25, 2012 | Style & Beauty Story Style National

Though Point Reyes printmaker Tom Killion is a Fulbright scholar, former professor of African history, and veteran globe-troter, when it comes to his art, he's practically a homebody. The Mill Valley native has been paying homage to his Northern California roots through woodcut prints since the mid-'70s, when he was first introduced to book printing at UC Santa Cruz. Each landscape begins with an onsite sketch, drawn during excursions through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Point Reyes coastline, Big Sur forests, and beyond. Back in the studio, Killion allows his memory to break from reality: Colors are often hyper-saturated and the perspective slightly torqued.

Killion's methods are influenced by both Japanese-qoodcut techniques and European wood engraving. He usually carves images into blocks of shina plywood, a type of linden wood, with traditional hand tools. Then each color is individually printed on handmade Japanese paper, using a hand-cranked press Killion has owned for 35 years. Several shades of ink are layered atop one another--from lightest to darkest--to create the rich hues of his Big Sur canyons or ombre effect of a dusky Mt. Tam sky.

In the Make is an online arts journal featuring studio visits with artists and designers. This is the latest in a monthly series appearing exclusively in San Francisco.


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