What is narrative art? Let me start by saying I have a deep love for art, but there is so much for me to learn. I had no idea there was so much to learn, but hopefully we can learn together.
Let’s start with a basic definition: Narrative art is art that tells a story. Wikipedia has a much longer description if you want to read more, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative_art. Early in world history art was used to tell stories and was used before literacy grew to the masses.
My indoctrination into narrative art begins with Ke Francis. When Ke Francis moved back to Tupelo nearly two years ago, he dropped by the gallery to meet me. He said that since being back home, he needed to be represented by his hometown art gallery. I was so honored! For years I had heard about Ke Francis and his mark on art in our country, not just our state. Ke had recently retired as the Dean of Art at the University of Central Florida and is an internationally known and collected contemporary narrative artist. He is also one of the most prolific artist I know. He works in his studio all day! I mean all day, not just a couple hours, it’s from dusk to dawn. He recently mentioned that since he is getting a bit older, he still has so much to create and wants to be sure he doesn’t run out of time before he’s done.
Most of Ke’s work has centered around the 1936 Tupelo Tornado. Although, he has done quite a bit of collaborative work with other artists and with other themes. His pieces always have a story to tell or are pieces created from a story he has written. Ke will typically write a book, illustrate it and print it himself. When I say print, it’s more then just sending a digital document to the printer and having the pages printed out on copy paper. And it’s not sending to a publisher where so many eyes review and edit it. It’s a process I had never seen before.
The letterpresses in the studio of Ke Francis are a step back in time when books were first replicated for the masses. He has about 7 presses and uses them all for different results, some for books and some for printing woodcut prints. Each letter of a page is hand placed on the press, printed and then changed for the next page. Then he will print the illustrations to go with the book, make the cover, then bind it. Talk about a passion for detail and very time consuming, but the results are beyond anything you can find today in bookstores.
Fortunately, Ke prints many of these illustrations on a large format press so we can enjoy them in our homes. By saying prints, it’s not the commercially produced prints we find in large retail stores. His prints originate as original paintings, then these images are replicated on wood, in reverse view, and carved out by hand into a woodcut. These woodcuts are then used to print the images in various inks and often hand colored by the artist. Everything done by hand.
The process of Ke’s narrative art is so fun to watch. These photos don’t do justice to all that goes on in his studio. To learn more about Ke Francis and the Hoopsnake Press studio, check out his website. http://www.hoopsnakepress.com/