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The artist, revealed

by | Jan 19, 2021 | Arts & Culture, Sermon Series, Work | 1 comment

by Jim Killam | 3-minute read

In the video introducing each installment of the Ephesians sermon series, the hands you see belong to artist Kari McDonald.

Kari works either from her basement in Rockford or from the print shop of her father in-law, Bruce McDonald, at the family’s farm near Durand. The name of her printmaking business and Etsy store, Lemuette, is a nod to Lemuel Fisk, who settled this piece of Illinois prairie in 1838. Most of Kari’s work is drawn from inspiration she finds in the farm’s native prairie fields.

“I like learning about the different plants, and identifying them is really fun,” she says. “I know a lot of people don’t have access to prairie fields to really feel what it’s like to be in them, and to feel how calm they are. So it all ties together with wanting to emulate a calm feeling through the prints.

“Even now, when we are all inside, it’s nice to bring a little bit of outside inside. I’ve always had that mentality, but now it means even more.”

Her artistic process starts with a pencil sketch, which she then carves into a block of Japanese Shina plywood, which comes from a renewable linden forest. Once she has carved, tested and refined the block, she rolls ink onto it and uses a press to print the work on thick, cotton-rag paper from the Netherlands.

The short video does capture her artistic process, she says, though in reality it takes much longer — from a couple of hours to a couple of days, “depending on how much my arms and my hands can handle.”

In an age of instantaneous, automated production of art, Kari likes the slow, deliberate work of creating everything by hand.

“Once you get into the state of carving the print, it’s kind of therapeutic,” she says. “I get into this rhythm and it just feels good.”

She finds that every woodblock has its own “voice.”

“Even though you have the idea, sometimes the imagery kind of comes out on its own,” she says. “Based on the materials you are using, the time constraints, how you are feeling at that moment, all of that plays into how the end piece comes about. And I think that’s what’s interesting to see.”

For the wood block in the video, Kari ended up simplifying the design to better accentuate the word “Revealed,” the theme of the Ephesians series.

“I think you could relate that to how sometimes you have stuff in your life that is distracting from showing the image of Christ. (The revision) is not so much to see how things could look better for you, but maybe how they can represent God better.”

“We were created by God and yet we still get to create things on our own. I think that’s kind of a fun way to express that you were created. Kind of a circular thing.”