“I had become interested in children’s books. I had taken a course in children’s literature, and I decided to write a book. I wrote ‘Jack Rabbit.’ A teacher that I had that was quite influential in getting these [books] into print and helping me, and liking my work, decided that that should be my career. She left Kansas City and went to New York and was head of one of the playing card companies. So I took the book when I was visiting in New York. I took it to her and she said ‘Let me see what I can do. I know some publishers.’ But, we never did see it published, nobody was interested in it.”
During 1937-8, perhaps hoping for commercial success and some freedom from teaching, Dorothy wrote and illustrated several children’s books: Little Timothy Rabbit, Little Black Jack Rabbit, Little Tommy Rabbit, Little Timid Rabbit. Each manuscript is fully illustrated with black pen and ink drawings tinted with watercolor. The text is rendered in Dorothy’s clear, bold calligraphy on art deco style pages. Perhaps she was basing her stories on Beatrix Potter’s wildly popular Peter Rabbit series. In contrast to Potter’s rabbits, however, Dorothy’s do not wear human clothes and, in general, appear a little more feral. Working in pen and ink in this stylized deco genre, gave her some new directions that she would explore later on.
At the same time, she created two long friezes of animals rendered in the same deco influenced style: one, a friendly version of wild zoo animals, and the other, barnyard animals romping. Perhaps they were initially designed for an elementary school classroom, but later copies of these murals hung in her son, Robert’s bedroom as a child and she redrew them for her grandson, Max.
Her style for these books and murals is quite different from her approach as a watercolorist. They are simplified, flattened, and bold. The strong diagonals of the book layouts reflect the angularity of art deco design, quite popular at that time. It is interesting to question whether they mark a modernizing progression in her work, or whether they are a completely different branch of experimentation that she was pursuing at the same time as the watercolors.
Printmaking also became a very important part of her work in Arcadia, CA, in the early 1950s. While she studied various intaglio and relief block processes at Columbia University, it is also highly likely that she viewed German Expressionist woodcuts at the Pasadena Museum. Their bold, graphic, rough-hewn forms were certainly an influence. Woodcut was, for her, the perfect mode of expression for her well-developed design sense, her interest in light and dark, and positive and negative forms.
Typically, she cut a key image block in linoleum and background blocks in rough wood. When inked, the linoleum gave a more solid line than wood. She always printed the key plate in black. The backgrounds, printed first, allowed her to ink the wood blocks à la poupée, with various colors, placed by hand, on each block. There is considerable variation in many of these early block prints, and they could almost be viewed as individual series of monoprints. Sometimes she would reuse the same background block in a different print, perhaps rotating it, or changing the colors. The subject matter of these prints ranges from children, dancers, birds sitting, birds flying, chickens, insects, fish, plant forms of all sorts to many variations of landscape.
Printing was done by hand, without the use of a press. At first, she used a simple rolling pin or large wooden spoon to rub the back of the paper. Later, she used more sensitive and delicate Japanese paper and a Japanese bamboo baren to transfer the ink to the papers. Often, she added color accents with small linoleum pieces, inked and placed individually. She always printed with water-based woodblock inks, which gave her a good color range, and made clean-up considerably easier. As time went on, she started to be more experimental with her block making, often cutting out shapes from matte board, gluing them down, covering these forms with aluminum foil, and then printing the result as if it were a regular wood block. A few times, when a small shape was needed, she even used a potato. Her son, Bob, often helped with the editioning, at first running the finished prints to drying tables (large cardboards set on top of old fashioned, foldable baby basinettes!), and later, helping with the printing itself.
In 1969, a friend taught Dorothy and Bob how to print serigraphs using a silk screen. This technique was faster and allowed for color transparency, larger format and irregular outlines. Bob often did the editioning for these prints, but they did not have the immediacy of the woodblocks.
Dorothy belonged to the America Color Print Society with whom she frequently exhibited. She also submitted to the Los Angeles County Fair and the California State Fair where she won awards for her prints.
From 1952-1972, she made over seventy different editions of prints. In addition to this, she created small Christmas Cards and also Jewish New Year Cards on an annual basis to be sent to friends and relatives.
A chronological listing of her different print editions follows:
Blue in the Night
Out of doors
Under the Sea
Black Congo I
Birds in Flight
Children at Play
Out of Doors
In the Jungle
Waltz of the Flowers
Brown Bird Flying
Religious themed prints:
Time and Space