Woodburnings: The First Five Years

Coffee table book to be featured in virtual event

Joanna Walitalo’s “Woodburnings: The First Five Years” will be the featured book in Thursday’s U.P. Notable Book series. The event will be held via Zoom. (Photo courtesy of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association)

MARQUETTE — Coffee-table books are known for stunning photographs, but artwork too — even the kind that doesn’t involve paint.

The Crystal Falls Community District Library, in partnership with the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association, will feature Joanna Walitalo’s “Woodburnings: The First Five Years” in its 19th event in the U.P. Notable Book series set for 7 p.m. Thursday via Zoom.

Participants are asked to contact Evelyn Gathu in advance at egathu@crystalfallslibrary.org or 906-875-3344. UPPAA recommends participants borrow a copy of the book from a local library or purchase from a local bookseller in advance to better participate in the free event, which is open to all U.P. residents.

“Woodburnings: The First Five Years,” according to UPPAA, shows the beauty and majesty of natural subjects including landscapes, wild birds, fish and other wildlife of the U.P.

Walitalo grew up in downstate Oil City where she took art classes at Bullock Creek Schools, later earning a bachelor of science degree in biology and environmental studies from Central Michigan University, UPPAA said.

Joanna Walitalo

She took art classes at the Midland Center for the Arts, where she had the opportunity to study under Armin Mersmann. While studying at CMU, she took art classes form Dietmar Krumrey II and Michael Volker.

From there, she moved to the U.P. where she earned a master of forestry degree at Michigan Technological University.

A strong love of the outdoors and wild places has led her to incorporate her passion for art with her professional education in order to bring the beauty of wildlife and wild places closer to the general public through scientifically accurate artwork, UPPAA said.

The book, according to the U.P. Book Review, is divided into chapters of early work, wildlife, portraits and people, pets, puzzles, mystic and “spotlights” on people who influenced the art.

“One quickly sees that this artist has a wonderful style that she applies to a wide variety of topics,” reviewer and author Deborah K. Frontiera wrote. “Her realism and attention to detail lets us see moods and personality in the eyes of her subjects — human or otherwise. While she may do several variations of one subject or theme, each is unique in terms of details and the type of wood used.”

Walitalo uses several types of wood including oak, basswood, spruce, pine, ash, maple and birch — less ash because of the dark lines in that wood that tend to make it difficult to bring out the image, Frontiera said. However, she noted that often the lines, knots, bark edges and other wood features suggest the topic for the art and become part of the design.

“It’s as if the artist sees an image in the wood and brings it out in a remarkable way,” Frontiera said. “A vertical bark pocket once became the branch of a tree. A natural indentation in one piece became the hole for an owl to live in. An antique ironing board was large enough for a life-size eagle.”

Frontiera pointed out that the author always sketches in pencil before burning into wood since an artist can’t “erase” a burn.

“This is a book to read through, absorb and then look at over and over again, to admire the talent demonstrated in each piece,” Frontiera wrote. “A reader, viewer, may find themself thinking, ‘I wish I could do that,’ and then wanting to go out and purchase a piece of this artist’s work.”

In the review, Walitalo was quoted as saying, “I rarely do artwork with the intent of making a pretty picture to hang on a wall. What interests me is creating meaning and capturing a story in the art, which is difficult to capture in a depiction of a flower without further context.

It would be interesting and challenging to go down this path in the future and push myself in new directions.”

She and her husband, James, operate J. Walitalo Woodburning and Artwork, based in Pelkie.

More information about the U.P. Notable Book list, U.P. Book Review and UPPAA can be found on www.UPNotable.com

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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