Lyell Castonguay’s work is a fantastical representation of the animal world’s grandeur of appearance. He depicts his subjects in striking poses with countenances that express a range of emotions. Castonguay creates compositions responding to something he has absorbed as an avid consumer of natural history, literature, and entertainment.
Castonguay believes animal subjects achieve great spiritual and emotional power through an idolized form. He strives to create personified animal representations like his predecessors Elliot Offner and Leonard Baskin. His art sets the stage for animal-inspired dramas, and the viewer is left to interpret how the scene will unfold.
Castonguay’s primary mode of expression is woodblock printmaking. He considers printmaking a refined iteration of his drawing process, and concepts begin as simple sketches on paper. Sumi-e ink, in combination with a dip pen and brushes, is used to establish general spontaneous forms. Sharpie and ball-point pens are employed to draw ornate feather and fur textures. It is not uncommon for Castonguay to redraw the same image numerous times to reach a harmonious balance of marks.
Castonguay transfers the drawing to high-quality plywood. Then he moves on to the most time-consuming part of the process, carving. The artist uses Japanese hand tools to chisel around each drawn line. Larger and more complex compositions can take weeks to complete.
Ink is applied to the woodblock’s surface using a rubber brayer. Proper application is essential: too much ink will fill in finely carved details, too little ink will cause the finished print to look spotty. Finally, Castonguay places fine art paper on the inked woodblock. An etching press applies even pressure, and the force transfers ink from the woodblock to paper. The result is a finished woodblock print.