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 emotion. 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. Printmaking is a refined iteration of his drawing process, and concepts begin as quick sketches. India 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.
Castonguay transfers the drawing to plywood and uses Japanese-style 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, and too little ink will cause the finished print to look spotty.
Finally, Castonguay places fine art paper on the inked carving. An etching press applies even pressure, and the force transfers ink from the woodblock to the paper. The result is a finished woodblock print.