Collection: For the Love of Trees

Trees were the source of inspiration, but they were also the material the woodblocks were made of, as well as the source material of washi, the paper he printed on. I remember when he would receive the woodblocks he ordered. He would run his hands over the surface of the block. Since the wood he used was hardwood, its smooth surface was extremely pleasant to the touch and not scratchy or rough like pine wood. The feel would be like running your hand across silk, the surface feel was much smoother than running your hands across a laminated table. 

Washi’s appeal for Hnizdovsky was largely due to the numerous inclusions within the paper, pieces of bark, tiny twigs. Handling both paper and wood was a sensual experience, and Hnizdovsky would always say that the block was dictating how it wanted to be carved. 

As for subject matter, trees were fascinating due to the texture of the bark, the intricate lattice of branches, the pattern of the leaves, and even more so, the intricate, often knotted roots. Hnizdovsky would sit for hours at the botanical gardens sketching trees. This was the normal family outing, walking through the botanical gardens and city parks of New York City. On weekdays, the artist would take his triangular chair and large sketchpad and spend the whole day at the parks. On weekends, he would also have his wife and child in tow. The park would close, the artist was nowhere to be found. Park security would be dispatched to find the missing artist. After 30-45 minutes, sometimes closer to an hour, they would return with the artist, sitting in the back of the jeep, his huge sketchpad in tow. His daughter was crying. What if they never found him? What if he had fallen into the pond and been swallowed by an alligator? A four year old child is too young to know any better. But, Hnizdovsky’s obliviousness to his surroundings was well known. He would be so engulfed in his sketches, that he would not have noticed if an alligator had approached. Luckily, the botanical gardens in NYC had no alligators, because if he had been sketching in Florida, he may not have been that lucky. He would have been so fascinated by the pattern of scales, that he could not resist sketching them at close distance. He did not work from photographs. He always worked from a live model.

He was invited to Africa, but never went. Perhaps this is for the best, since he could not have resisted to get out of a jeep to sketch, and would presume that the apex predator that was rapidly approaching, simply wanted to see the artist’s sketch of him. He was blissfully ignorant in this regard, and stayed focused until he completed his pencil sketch, which he would then return to ink at home. 

He always said, the hardest part about drawing trees or creating tree woodcuts was to make sure each branch attached properly. Everything had to connect. His careful attention to detail, the weeks or months of carving a woodblock and the resulting prints are a testament to that dedication and attention to detail. 

Please have patience as we continue to scan and photograph Hnizdovsky’s artwork.We have only scratched the surface!