Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose... On a Flag

Back in the studio after a couple of days of other projects and a day of pure fun with an old friend.  In fact we are so old we go all the way back to 4th or 5th grade (neither of us can remember).  When we get together we giggle like a couple of 4th graders, so maybe that was it and we have failed to progress.  But, I'm rambling which reminds me of roses and that is where we are.  It was a tough fight between sunflower, chrysanthemum, bird of paradise, zinnia, acanthus and, my fave, bells of Ireland.  Rose won not for being faster, but because I remember the roses in front of Pat's house and how she loves them.  And, what do you know, in Flower Language the red rose means love.  Every garden should have lots and lots of love wafting about on the breeze - in fact, I think it may be a law, or a code, or something.

The drawing is ready:

Next is to print it out onto the studio paper and then transfer to the block, sharpen knives, and carve, baby, carve!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Proof of the Pudding

The pudding being the flags, of course.  Chips have been flying around here and there is another batch to be swept up and sent to that great mulch eater that we call "the garden" (which is really the battle ground where we fight for survival against deer, moles, voles and slugs).  But, before that happens (and because there will be a few more when I find out where I need to carve a little deeper or a little more - there's no sense in making extra work my mother used to say -).  Therefore, I show you the block in its more or less pristine condition (sans any ink).  My blocks look more as if I had chewed on them than carved them - not neat and tidy and smooth like David Bull's.

 But they work, and  from this here is the first proof done using Akua Intaglio inks.  I'll be printing these with textile or oil base inks and the orchid itself will probably be printed with some shade of purple ink on the yellow flag:

Not too bad - there is a minimum of cleaning up to do on the block.

Here is a sample of the blossom with the border -  (the same border will be used with each flower)

There will be some registration adjustments, just a slight movement and I'll use my trusty all purpose registration board with these:

With the image printed onto the acetates I can line them up on the registration board and voila! Everything will come out easy as pie. We hope.

There will be some improvisation with these flag prints as they are to be printed on fabric.  The proofs I took today were burnished by hand and the fabric is going to have to go through the press - when all the blocks are ready I'll start fabric trials.  They are all laundered and just waiting for some images - I can hear them in the back of my head, " Is she ever going to get to us or are we just folded fabric sitting here to decorate her studio?"  The answer to all of the above is yes.  OK.  I'm on it.  Just not today because there are other things to do.  Not tomorrow, either, because I'm going across the bridge to the Big City (Portland, OR) and play with the other kids.  Maybe I can get the next drawing done by Tuesday.  We'll see....  There is not a real deadline on these which is very, very nice - but, I have to keep a close watch on self or she will get preoccupied with something else and it could be years before she gets back to these.  I think the alter-ego-task-master-person is going to have to be in charge.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Let The Carving Begin, Almost

Probably no one is interested in this, but I thought I would give it a go and see if I could do it.  "It" is documentation of a print from start to finish.  Not knowing quite where the beginning is I decided (quite arbitrarily) to start right after the block has been cut and sanded as smooth as a babies behind.

This method of transferring the image to the block is using the Studio Paper from McClain's.  I have found from experience with the Print From Hell (see previous post) that the ink tends to spread on the wood I'm using and lines are thicker than what I've drawn, which is one of the many reasons I had so much trouble with registration on the PFH, but it works great for one color prints and especially for Western style printmaking.

So, here we go with the image having been scanned and printed via ink jet printer onto the Studio Paper and placed face down on the block:

The ink will stay wet long enough for you to dink about taking photos, etc., so no need to be in a hurry.  However, don't go out for a beer - there isn't enough time for that right now.

Here's the tricky part:

Rub the back with your hand - does not need pressure to transfer.  At least not a lot of pressure.  You can use a baren or the back of a wooden spoon or a smooth river rock or - anything.  McClain's recommends using a slip sheet (maybe if I did that I would get a cleaner transfer?  I'll have to try that next time...)

And:  here is the result using the hand only:

That's not too bad, and certainly clear enough for my purposes on this print.  

And, here we are: all ready to start carving - tomorrow.  Times up for today.  Actually, tomorrow is a social (aka chocolate dessert with friend) day, therefore carving will not start until Friday - but watch the chips fly then!

Aha!  You thought I couldn't hear you, didn't you?  You were saying, "I don't see any kento marks.  She is going to have the same problems she had before - she has forgotten all about registration.  Hoo, boy, she is headed for Print From Hell #2".  Au contraire, mes amis! I do have a plan.  It may be ill begotten, but it is a plan.  We will see when the time comes.  Uh oh.  ;-)

(Isn't printmaking just more fun than a barrel of adolescent primates? One just never knows what's in store for one, does one??  Unless, of course, you are one of those stodgier types who have learned from experience not to experiment and do what you know works.  I have yet to learn that lesson.  Maybe I'm not as smart as an adolescent primate...)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Back to the Flags

You may, or may not, recall the Prayer Flag project that I started last Fall, or maybe it was last Summer.  Time just seems to fly by and I feel like I'm running along behind it, as fast as my little feet will go, but I just cannot catch up with it.  It seems like the harder I try the more I get behind.  Nevertheless, I've managed to catch the flag project and today I think I got the drawing done and ready to be transferred to the block.  This flower is the orchid and according to the Language of Flowers site it means "beauty".  Seems fitting for the idea that these flags, as they flutter in the garden, will be releasing the blessings attributed to them.

I don't remember if I mentioned it before, but the impetus for this project was the death of a dear friend's husband.  I wanted to do something in his memory and came up with the prayer flags because she is such an avid gardener and loves flowers.  One of his pet names for her was "Beauty" - and so we must have this image.

Tomorrow the image will go on the block and let the carving begin!  By George, I think I've caught this thing.  I knew those new sneakers would be good for more than just sneaking.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Print From Hell Begins...

All of the deadlines have been met except one:  Barenforum exchange # 55, which I foolishly signed up for on Oct. 1, 2012 when Feb. 1, 2013 sounded years away.  I thought I needed something to occupy my time, and then I turned around and flew to North Dakota for a week, and then it was Thanksgiving, and then flew to ND again for Christmas, and then it was Dec. 31, 2012 and I discovered that the Sketchbook Project was due in two weeks.  Their  "next Jan." was tomorrow and my "next Jan." had been 2014.  Well, got to work quickly and did that and the portrait and now it is back to woodblock.

It all started with a simple drawing which I had planned to do Moku Hanga.  This is the drawing:

The theme is motion in nature - immediately I had thought of my daughter, when she was a toddler, and rode on a little seat on the back of my bike.  I updated it with a helmet, but in those days the only thing I really remember was a little plastic strap that went around her middle.  All during our rides she was absolutely dead quiet and I thought she must be scared to death and certain I was out to kill us both. In contrast, her older brother when he rode back there chatted continually about everything in sight.  I never had long straight blond hair, either - call it artistic license.

OK - so got the block carved and proofed and ready to print and realized that I had no way to register this beauty.  Out came the cheater registration system. Voila!  I lined everything up, got my margins all set and pulled some proofs for registration purposes and went to bed.

The next morning the blocks were all waiting for me and I went to work.

I had blocks for blue, red, brown,  and grey and yellow on one block, and a blended blue to green background block.  Oh oh!  Right away I can't get the background to line up properly.  Finally, after hours of trial and error I gave up and carved a new background and printed it - so far Moku Hanga is working great!

It was obvious that I should throw in the towel and start over, but I was already late, so what to do? What to do?  Fuss and fury, what to do!  I did what any half crazed, previously level headed printmaker would do, I opted for hand coloring and got to work on that, which went rather quickly compared to recutting half a dozen blocks.  The only problem was that it looked really goofy with a mix of even sides and sides that went off to nowhere.  So, cut another block!  A frame block to cover all the sins.  I mixed up some blu/black Akua Intaglio ink, rolled it onto the block and to the press with paper and rubber blanket.  Moku Hanga has been totally abandoned at this point.  My patience is caput.

Toddler Flight

It worked moderately well, but this was about as far as I could go with what I had.  Barely visible in this shot is a swirl of interference pigment, added via stencil,  which shimmers when the light hits it properly.  At this point I did throw all the towels in - (the washer) and rushed this lot to the USPS.  And, I want to tell you that I really don't know what they're worried about money-wise.  The fee was outrageous and should keep the USPS solvent for several years.  And, now I need to go write another check to Monica because what I included was pathetic.

One more thing - I want to apologize to all the #55 folk who have been eagerly awaiting this portfolio. This is the first time I've ever been late.  I promise that reformation is on my resolution list.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lisa and Her Inner Child

Well, before I get carried away with the current woodcarving project, there was one more thing that had to be done before February 1.  That was a portrait.  There were hundreds if not millions of ways I could have gone with this assignment, and any of them probably would have been easier than the one I chose.  The paints, brushes, easel and a spanking clean canvas were sitting right there next to my drawing table and they shouted louder than anyone else.  My guess is that they were feeling neglected and wanting attention.  It worked.  Before I knew what had hit me I was smearing paint around on a small 20" x 16" surface.  Some bubble wrap was handy so it was smeared and pressed onto the other smeared pigments. A small piece of netting - the kind produce sometimes comes in - found its way to the canvas and paint was brushed and smushed over it leaving a delicious texture.  I just painted, smushed, smeared, crushed, smashed, slapped and slumped almost everything I could find onto that surface.  Basically, I produced a monotype without the transfer from matrix to intended surface.  Again, those printmaking skills were saving my derriere.

Then it just had to dry for a day which I spent cutting word stencils from heavy paper.  I had asked Lisa for some words she would use to describe herself and some she thought her friends and family might use to label her, too.  She sent a list to choose from.  I started with curious, then caring and creative, honest, and lastly: kind.  The idea was to use different fonts and sizes for each, but I didn't have a huge surface, so fortunately there was a limit built in.

When the first layers were dry enough I stenciled the words in a more or less random manner.  The idea I had in the back of my mind was to create this richly textured surface with the words woven in and a simple line drawing of Lisa over the top of everything.  So far, the work was going according to plan.

And, then it came time to add that line drawing idea.  It looked like it didn't even belong in the same room, let alone on the same surface.  I had made the background too dominant.  Rats.  Two choices: glace and tone down the background or just fill in the line with a grisaille rendering.  I settled for the grisaille because, here again, a deadline was nipping at my backside.  (Grisaille is a monochrome under painting used mainly to establish darks and lights and shadows for modeling.  When this method is used the artist generally goes on to then put in all the flesh tones, eye color, etc.  But, I stopped with grisaille.) 

This exhibition was originally to be a portrait exchange.  Each of us would choose another artist, from our group, or not, and we would each produce a portrait of the other person.  About half of us did the exchange thing,  some did self portraits.  There are some wonderful portraits in this show!  Anyway, it was a delight to meet Lisa, look at her work, and I had much fun attempting her portrait.  In Lisa's work she uses a lot of animals and especially a rabbit, very much like this blue one, that she had labeled her "inner child".  Every portrait should include one's inner child, don't you think?

Lisa and Her Inner Child

The opening of the exhibition was Feb. 1 - this had to be done, dry and delivered the middle of the week prior.  Another deadline met!  The exhibition is at Northbank Gallery, 1005 Main St., Vancouver, WA and will be up through Feb. 23.  The year was off to a very good start.  Except.

Except that last Oct. First it seemed very reasonable to sign up for a print exchange requiring 31 prints on Feb. 1.  I must have been in some alternate universe for this to seem like a good idea, but it did and I did and now the prints were due and all I had was a drawing on a block of wood.  Oh dear.  The woodblock print from hell will be the next installment.

The Last of the Sketchbook

When we left off I was still amidst the Sketchbook - stuck on that high spot in the road, not knowing whether I should just send it off and get to the next project or put a few more (numerous) hours into the works.  If it could have been sent off anonymously I might have done it.  But, it has my name on it.  So,  I couldn't.  More work went into it right up until the moment it had to be winging its way to the East coast.  The cover took on a number of changes:

As did all of the pages.  Additions of a variety of decorative papers, some gouache, some acrylic, some of this and some of that.  Here are a few more examples:

Those of us with printmaking skills are the luckiest people in the world.  How would I ever had made it through the sketchbook project without monotype and etching?  It was so great to be able to put both to use.  A little woodblock would have made it into this, too, had there been time and had someone  handled what time she did have a bit better. 

The next project on the docket is Exchange 55 for the Barenforum.  Starting a new project is always a shot in the arm, and this was no exception - it started off swimmingly, or maybe cravingly.  I happily carved for days, but more about that in the next installment.