Author Archive | Liv

Watercolors & Woodcuts

Ye olde fish faces

It is no secret that I find inspiration for both style and content in historical sources. Not that I don’t appreciate modern creations, I absolutely do, but my appreciation for today is deeply rooted in my understanding of the past. (Read up on the history of plumbing and sanitation sometime — you’ll be thankful next time you flush.) I work with woodcut because I enjoy both the challenge and its deep roots as a medium to illustrate books. My mom loves to talk about how the librarians used to let me check out more books than the limit allowed because they knew I’d bring them back early and often in better shape than they left the library. Books are brain food and my overactive imagination lead me to consume a lot of fantastic and weird history as I grew. Through those books (and magazines) I was also exposed to a great deal of art, both photographic and illustrative.

An image from the book of Wonders and Portents

I’m still finding art and inspiration on the printed page. Recently I’ve been focused on the visual vocabulary of medieval woodcuts, and spending time searching for images has renewed my love for the quirks of imagery and production techniques. Facial expressions in particular often tend towards the grotesque or inappropriate given the situation depicted. (Check out the faces on those fish!) Typically printed in black, illustrated books were sometimes also hand-colored with varying degrees of skill. The image to the left is taken from a copy of Lycosthenes’ Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon and exhibits a rough coloration that may have been applied with the aid of a stencil for added production speed. In this day and age of book creation not requiring the touch of a human hand (or for that matter an actual physical book), I respect the time and effort that went into producing the 600+ page volume this image came from . The application of color to this particular print may be crude, but it has its charm.

Colored with a mixture of stone pigments

I couldn’t resist trying it out for myself. Printing editions always produces a few extras, and while outright errors are destroyed, I do have a backlog of proofs on hand for experimentation. A few attempts were just outright awful (I’m more experienced with carving tools than brushes), but I rather like the successes. My materials aren’t necessarily accurate to the period, but this Cthulhu was colored exclusively with mineral pigment colors such as apatite, zoisite, and rhodonite. I’m still very much in love with the purity of black line on paper and don’t see myself switching to constant color in my work, but I do think this has been a worthwhile exploration and intend to continue experimenting on excess prints.

Catching up

Opening night before the crowd

The trip to California to attend the Necropolis opening at Congregation Gallery was well worth it. The much touted Carmaggedon was a bust, traffic was for the most part lighter than expected. (Many thanks to Maria for getting us out to visit Hyaena Gallery on Friday evening when the traffic was lousy.)

The Necropolis opening was absolutely packed; I doubt I met even half the other artists in attendance, it was just that busy. I’m glad we got at least one photo before the gallery filled up. I didn’t get many other photos of the opening, but Tatomir took some fantastic shots. You can also find images of all the work at the Congregation Gallery website as well as a couple of reviews at Creep Machine and Upon a Midnight Dreary. If you’re in the area, you need to visit this show before it ends because the photos and reviews are just a mere taste of what hangs upon those walls. Get in there, get up close, and get lost in the details. Many thanks to Cam Rackam for making it happen!

Opening night at OCAC's Hoffman Gallery

On the subject of shows, The Hunt (works based upon objects in the OHSU medical research archives) closes after tomorrow, July 27, 2011.

Visit The Hunt at:

The Hoffman Gallery on the
Oregon College of Art and Craft Campus
8245 SW Barnes Road,
Portland, OR 97225
Open 10am to 5pm

Cthulhu modeled by Roger D. Bones

Last but not least, my friends at SighCo are now producing t-shirts featuring my medieval style Cthulhu necronomicon page. It isn’t available online yet, but I will have a few large and extra large shirts available at the Lovecraft Fair at The Lovecraft Bar this Sunday July 31st from 3 to 6pm. This is my last event before I go into hermit mode to finalize preparations for the Esoteric Book Conference.

Book Announcement

My first project with Three Hands Press, Michael Howard’s Children of Cain has been announced and is now available for pre-order.

Quoting Three Hands Press: “Collecting over forty years of research, much of it never before appearing in print, this definitive work details such obscure Old Craft figures as Monica English and Alastair Clay-Egerton, as well as its better-known proponents such as Robert Cochrane and George Pickingill. Lavishly illustrated with both colour and black and white photos, we will be offering three editions of the book, two featuring the cover artwork of Liv Rainey-Smith.”

The original woodcut prints will be available as hand-pulled limited editions at the Esoteric Book Conference.

Necropolis Group Show

A peek at my new Lovecraft work debuting at Necropolis

It’s nearly here! To quote Cam Rackam, “Ever since the dawn of oil painting, Dark Art has been quietly evolving in many forms by many creatives. Dark Art has been considered an art style defined as being “dark” or unsettling in nature.
Most recently, The Dark Arts have grown beyond the stylistic characterizations and is on the brink of blossoming into a genre all of it’s own.

Necropolis is a group show about this very nature. Our latest exhibition is the crossroads where the unsettling intersects amid the beauty of visual expression. With roots sturdy in horror, occultism, and Renaissance-caliber talent, the Dark Arts have turned our gallery walls into a virtual city for the dead. We have been planning, curating, and painting this show for 8 months. This July 16th, during “Carmageddon” you are all invited to our opening reception. ”

Participating artists:
Nikko Hurtado • Christopher Peters • Cam Rackam • Christopher Ulrich • Arjen Tuiten • Tatomir • Larkin • Dan Harding • Carlos Rojas • Cliff Wallace • Scott Holloway • Buddy Nestor • Jeremy Cross • Kelly Vetter • Mistiis • Matt Hurtado • Steve Rodgers • Jason Soles • Dean Fleming • John Haley III • Jeffery Figeroua • Corey Urlacker • Aunia Kahn • Christopher Conte • John Charles • DisSpain • Mary J. Sheridan • Jethaniel Peterka • Benoit Polveche • dAeve Fellows • Christopher Moonlight • Kolaboy • Kristen Forbes-Mullane • David Hill • Cory Benhatzel • Liv Rainey-Smith • Marcin Owczarek • Chad Savage • Don Farrel • GAK • the Creep • Michael Carbonaro • Kevin Wilson • Jason Hernandez • Tony Cupstid • Zac Shiffer • Michael McDevitt • Kat Gun • Travis Smith • Nathan Cartwright • Diego “Yeyo” Aguirre • Diana Comstock • Sean Chappell • Scarecrowoven • Thomas Monauni

Visit The Congregation Gallery for details hope to see you there!

Inspirational spring loaded razorblades

Opening night at OCAC's Hoffman Gallery

The culmination of many month’s labor, “The Hunt” is at last revealed. Many thanks to Beth Robinson for her vision and hard work, as well as the gracious cooperation of OHSU’s research archive.This group show documents a gentle “scavenger hunt” within Oregon Health and Science University’s Historical Collection and Archives. The item “found” was interpreted or utilized as inspiration by each of the artists into the creation of a new piece. For more information visit

For safer bloodletting

“G.C. Ahlbeck’s”
Woodcut reduction print
Edition of 9

“My” object at the OHSU research archives, is a set of cups and two bloodletting scarificators manufactured by G.C. Ahlbeck, “Chirurgisk Instrumentmakare,” in 1870. Although I had seen similar glass cupping sets before (they are popular in massage), the brass scarificators were entirely new to me.

Upon examining them, I could identify signs of their hand construction such as saw blade marks and solder lines. After some careful handling I was able to raise and lower the blade depth, cock the blades with the lever, and trigger the spring loaded action with the button. The blades passed in and out of the device so rapidly my eyes almost didn’t register the movement. Although my stomach churned at the thought of being cut by those twelve rounded blades, fascination soon set in and I realized a relationship exists between this once high-tech tool and modern bloodletting tools.

Diabetics today utilize adjustable, spring loaded lancets to draw blood on a daily basis. The purpose is different, but the mechanics are similar. Even if you’ve never used a testing lancet, you’ve likely been exposed to advertisements touting the ease and comfort of the latest model. With this connection in mind, I created my vision of a 19th century advertisement for G.C. Ahlbeck’s finely crafted product.

Two openings and a goat

“The Hunt” is finally here! Opening reception Thursday, July 7th from 4pm-7pm.
Showing from July 7- July 27, 2011
The Hoffman Gallery on the
Oregon College of Art and Craft Campus
8245 SW Barnes Road,
Portland, OR 97225

This group show documents a gentle “scavenger hunt” within Oregon Health and Science University?s Historical Collection and Archives. The item “found” was interpreted or utilized as inspiration by each of the artists into the creation of a new piece (without any harm done to the item “found.”) It will be a great opportunity for artists and viewers to reflect on the importance of these collections. Artists will be on hand at the opening reception to speak about their experiences working on this project. For more information check out or

Also opening July 7th,
“If We Shadows” works from the PAN collection
Reception from 6pm-9pm
Showing through July 31st
Gallery 114
1100 NW Glisan
Portland, OR. 97209


Last but not least, new work! Executed as part of a larger group of work to be released later this year, the block gave me a surprising amount of trouble during printing, thus it has been dubbed:

Edition of 15 hand pulled woodcut prints
Signed and numbered
Oil-based ink on acid-free cotton rag paper (all archival materials)
4×4″ block 6×6″ overall
Available for $30.00 plus shipping (Note, for shipping outside the USA please select the “International” option.

"Pertinax" limited edition woodcut print

Sea Serpents

Inking the serpent

Remember this guy? He’s done now!

Sea Serpent

Edition of 100 hand-pulled woodcut prints
Signed and numbered
Oil-based ink on acid-free cotton rag paper (all archival materials)
4×6″ overall

Sea Serpent

I couldn’t resist matting and framing one for myself and it looks fantastic! Works well with standard frame sizes (5×7″ frame size shown) as well as photo and ephemera collection media.

Want a little Sea Serpent of your own? Visit Raineysmith on Etsy.

Upcoming shows

June 26th Noon-5pm
The Lovecraft Fair
The Lovecraft, 421 SE Grand, Portland, OR 97214

July 7- July 27, 2011
The Hunt
Curated by Beth I. Robinson
The Hoffman Gallery on the Oregon College of Art and Craft Campus
Opening reception on Thursday, July 7 from 4:00-7:00

July 16th-August 9th
The Congregation Gallery, 7569 Melrose, Hollywood CA 90046
Opening reception on Saturday, July 16th 9pm-Midnight

September 10th-11th
Esoteric Book Conference
Seattle Center (Olympic & Rainier Rooms) 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, WA 98109
See website for scheduling. Art room will be open to the public during conference hours.

October. 8-9 and October. 15-16
Portland Open Studios Tour
Visit my studio on these weekends for a look at how I carve and print, and take a gander at the prints!

One last look at the block

Time to retire the block

Wrapped up carving yesterday afternoon and immediately headed to Atelier Meridian to print. The session went smoothly, though slowly. Although I do use certain design tricks when planning my prints to reduce inking problems, they can’t always be avoided. In this case, I’d removed two text blocks in addition to all of the detail work, so the large roller I’ve been inking with had two new white sections to potentially dip into. The thumb in the photo is actually pointing towards a small spot of ink where this happened. To prevent messing up a white area, I used blue tape to cover these up before printing, then periodically carved away dirty sections. Not terribly difficult work, just a bit time-consuming.

The prints will now be left to dry a few days before I sort through them to chose the final edition. Then comes clean up of any smudges in the margins, titling, numbering, signing, and finally, delivery to The Hoffman Gallery for “The Hunt”.

July 7th-31st, 2011
The Hoffman Gallery
8245 Southwest Barnes Road, Portland, OR 97225
Opening reception July 7th 4-7pm

Many thanks to Beth Robinson for curating this incredible show.

Still carving

This is what I do at night

Reading this review of Tom Huck’s work, I came across this quote from Mr. Huck regarding why he works in wood, “Woodcuts are an inherently expressive medium. By that I mean when one carves and image out of wood it fights you. God or whatever didn’t make trees for us to carve images out of, and that struggle shows in the resulting printed image. This is why the German expressionists loved woodcuts so much, for it heightened the emotional content of the work. The quality of the lines are more jagged, and heavy black. Another big reason: DÃœRER!”

Huck speaks the truth, one of the great the joys of woodcut is the personality of the wood. Challenge does come with frustrations, but it is ultimately rewarding. Speaking of which, here’s the block after the final carving, but before the final printing. This final layer has been slow going, the red ink remaining on the block has remained wet, and you simply can’t rush when carving around fine lines. Or rather, you can, but don’t expect most of the fine lines to remain on the block.