Staff Pick - Wake Up, Island

The prints for the wonderful children’s book Wake Up, Island, written by Mary Casanova and illustrated by Nick Wroblewski have been on view in the Cooler throughout the last few months. Now that the show is coming to an end I realize it was past due for me to write about these wonderful prints. If you didn’t have a chance to see the show or are not familiar with this book it is a beautiful story about a small island in the Northwoods as dawn breaks and the landscape and wildlife greet the day. The book is filled with Nick’s amazing color reduction prints, each turn of the page reveals another familiar animal; moose, squirrels, deer, bees, bears, and birds of all kinds are greeting the day each in their own way.

Nick was kind enough to not only share the wonderful prints he has labored over for the past two years, but also some of the wood blocks used in creating the prints. As a printmaker myself I have always loved seeing the plates used to create a print. So much insight can be gleaned about an artist’s process from their tools. Nick’s blocks are meticulous, clean, uniform and orderly. His careful planning and preparation are evident.  It is fascinating to compare the beautiful carving on these blocks to the marks on the reversed impression of the corresponding print. Each mark carved into the plate is like a painter's brush stroke, or the trace of the potter's hand on a wheel thrown vessel. The marks carry the artists visual vocabulary and are unmistakably his creation.

Nick has an exceptional ability to capture the landscape, distilling down the most essential parts and enhancing elements in just the right way. He has created a vernacular within his work that lends itself to depicting the landscape of this region. He knows just where to let the wood grain do the work of creating texture and where to carve away the surface to build space within a two dimensional plane. It is a testament to his ability to capture the essence of a place when I hear people talk about the show and insist the little island is the same little island they know and love from childhood, or how much the images remind them of the landscape right outside their cabin up north. Nick’s images combined with Mary Casanova’s prose have captured something timeless and created an imagined world that feels real beyond the pages of the book.

- Ann Orlowski
  Assistant Director