Sunday, November 29, 2015

phase 8 - facilitate a good choice...

I have died and gone to art-heaven.

A very productive week in Artlandia! 
3 full-sized new plants (!!)
vine black on gray stonehenge paper, 11 x 15":

Maybe I shouldn't admit it, but even I'm surprised to have 3 full-sized plants in one week (gold star!)                                
Mostly this is due to a new technical development (phase 8!) I carved the plants small then used the computer to blow them up and transfer them to polyester lithography plates.  Still a little work to due figuring out how best to refine and prepare the digital files for transfer, but this is fantastic because it allows me to change the size and orientation of relief printed things and to drop out the background to isolate the object.  (Durer may have had an atelier of assistants, but I have a computer, haha ;) ).                                                                                                                        
It also gave me a great opportunity to compare between the relief based plant and the one from last week drawn directly on the plate:       

This is a great example of what I mean by "closed" vs. "open" forms.  They're both polyester lithography prints, but the left is based on a relief print, and the right is drawn directly onto the plate
Looking at these brings up some interesting questions for me. The open style plant is much more in keeping with the style of the 15th and 16th century Northern European  prints that I love (for example, here's a detail from a Durer woodcut). I can make them either way, instinct is to go with the more closed plants (hmmmmmm - time to cut the rope and walk away from the source material?)
the relief plants, 9 x 12" 

I love them in mini-scale, this one is about 3 x 4" 
The plants are exciting in themselves, but beyond that, they've been helpful in testing out the new technique, and now that we know it works...let's raise the bar and try something larger...;)

9 x 12" block
The dress is based on this very beautiful late 15th century
version of 
St. Barbara by Master FVB (pitter patter, pitter, patter).

 I feel like I'm making some real progress, but miles to go...eager to start seeing some larger things come together.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

phase 8 - facilitate a good choice...on-going

Ah, Lady Fortuna - where to start?
A very busy week in Artlandia!  First, I printed some of the blocks I've been working on on a press for the first time (whew - relieved that they turned out nicely :D. I especially like this one).

Then I printed the wing pieces 1 and 2...

I don't want to jinx myself, but the wing fragment is one of my favorite blocks so far.

...but then I tried to paint it, and the ink smeared (oops).  So, I'll be reprinting it and trying again this week. I went ahead and cut it out and drew on it for practice though, and I can tell it's going to be beautiful...
I couldn't resist trying it in the collage in process...just to see what it might look like..
Conclusion: Captain, we're going to need a bigger piece of mesh ;).
And, drew and printed this polyester lithography print of a plant, based on Gerard's Herbal.
I tried it...and I like the plant in itself, but decided that it doesn't belong in the same world as the figure/column/wings/rats. It's more of an intermediary between the  ink drawing (that's in the background) and the next stage - prints from relief carved plants...
So, take 2 on that as well...
 Hard at work and getting excited that it seems like it's really starting to come together (fingers crossed!)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Phase 8 - facilitate a good choice, continued (again)

A busy week in Artlandia...

First, I finished block 1 of the human-scale wing that I started last week (thumbs up!)
details, details, details (oy  - ;) )
It looks pretty much the same...but finished ;)
I laid out the blocks before I started carving, and I think it will take three 12 x 24" blocks and one 12 x 12" block (per wing, but I can't let myself think too much about the second wing, yet...). I started with this one because I think it's the most difficult - it has the finest feathers and it's the area that has the most curves in the underlying structure of the wing. (It's a challenge not to get too caught up in the surface detail and keep in mind the light/shadow and bone structure underneath).  

So, after I finished, I decided to go with the one "small" block next because it's probably the easiest (phase 8!).

Then, more printmaking fun :)!  Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, (where my work was in the Ten Spot show, last February, with the billboard :) ) is hosting a wreath auction to benefit the local food pantries, and I made these ornaments for the benefit (Dec 4th!)

Most of the blocks themselves aren't new (except the saddles), but I got to use them in a new way and test a theory: if I back the block first (here in gold); then cut them out, then sew through both layers, it makes them pretty strong, and I only had to cut and sew once (thumbs up!)

In other news, En Masse II opened at Thompson Giroux, and I think the show looks fantastic! Excited to be included and really enjoyed the variety of work (all that tiny-art-joy!)

 Last, I tried to put some thoughts on repeat into action and make something about it. Still working on this - it's a milagro, a votive representation of the body part for which one is asking for healing.


Monday, November 9, 2015

phase 8 - facilitate a good choice, continued...

A busy week in Artlandia!  I made a new version of the unicorn as a wedding gift for friends.

Apart from that, the entire rest of the week was spent on the life-scale wing...

close up view of the block with powder in the cuts, on top of the cartoon, from last week, based on one of my earlier blocks.
I've never spent the whole week working on a single block before (and it's not even finished yet - oy.); however, I feel like that's ok in this case because it's the biggest block I've ever attempted (12 x 24"), and also probably the most complex - an intricate design with marks from the widest variety of tools I've ever tried to use at once (9 so far, I think).

When I'm not working on this, I've been taking care of logistics or sleeping (a lot of energy expenditure on this one!) I'm excited to see it starting to come together and, I don't want to jinx it (particularly since it will take at least another 3 blocks before I have a full wing...and then, of course, most wings come in pairs... ;) ), but I think this will be a very nice block.                                                                                                 
block on top of the cartoon, with fingers for scale 
progress so far -  with powder in the cuts on a dark background - 12 x 24"
 So much time spent carving this week that my feline assistants' "default" locations are currently next to the block. Such diligent helpers - intermittent purring really does help diffuse frustration/stress. I came into the studio after breakfast to find them both already in position - keeping the carving pillow warm, and on the kitty house next to it watching over the tool trays (and the heater pointed directly at the carving spot probably doesn't hurt ;) ).

In terms of phase 8, if I made any progress, it was more in terms of what I didn't do. As much as I've done everything I can think to facilitate it, carving this block is not easy, so at this point, the only way I can think of to help is by not trying to do too many other things at the same time.  My hope is that the sustained attention to detail that goes into every mark will lead to a striking result...

For now, nothing for it but to keep going - wish me luck! :)

Monday, November 2, 2015

phase 8 - facilitate a good choice

A busy week in Artlandia!  Things were a little fragmentary this week, with energy going in a few directions. 
First, I made 2 finished pieces from last week's Gothic capital block - thumbs up :)

I went ahead and placed them into the life-sized work in progress, which is moving in the right direction, if sloooooowly.
Shifting focus, an ongoing sub-project related to the tiny tarot has been using the tarot iconography as a "control" while changing the plate material; for example, here are the four versions of Justice that I've made since July, on a pronto plate, copper plate, aluminum plate, and linoleum block.

On the one hand, it may seem like overkill, but it has been helpful  to compare a single image across the different media in trying to understand and appreciate the qualities of the materials.

I bring this up because it's been on my mind in terms of the drapery block from 2 weeks ago that I put on pause, but haven't put away.  I've been looking at it everyday and thinking about it in terms of phase 8 and facilitating a good choice. I think that I'm having such a hard time with it because in some ways, it's the 'almost right' things that are hardest to let go. Like how, if they're approximately the same size, it actually is possible to get a square peg in a round hole if you hit it hard enough, enough times (and are willing to overlook a little split wood ;)) The more I look at the block, the more I think I could make it work if I had to - it's a not a bad approach....but it's not the best choice either, because I'm asking the media to do something it doesn't want to do (make a mostly open form), and so I'm not using it to it's highest efficiency. (Hmmmmmmmm.)  

So, I reverted to minis, to see it I can figure it out on a smaller scale first.  With that last block of Justice, I really pushed against the limit of the what the material will hold (the harder the block material, the finer cut it will hold, and these are a soft rubber). So I decided to try a harder block material, but at this point, even I'm ready to try a new image, so I went with Fortuna instead.
I carved a new Fortuna on a hard linoleun block...and was reminded of why I switched to the soft blocks 2.5 years ago...

The softer the plate material, the easier it is to print by hand. Try as I might, I couldn't get a good proof of this. Also, because each cut takes more force and the marks are smaller, the carving time shoots way up...
with a quarter for scale - the face is about the size of
George Washington's 
state proof - 6 x 4"

...Still, there is just something about this medium that I find particularly satisfying.

By the time I gave up on trying to get a good proof, I was pretty frustrated. I try to remind myself of the first tiny tarot blocks that I did at home and how the proofs printed by hand were terrible compared to the final prints done on a press (no exaggeration - see the proof vs. final print of the Empress below). So I picture and go over in my mind exactly how I'm going to print it when I have access to a press very soon: "I'm going to ink this in bone black, then put it on the hot plate, and take out a nice, damp packed piece of Hahnemeulhe warm white paper..." It sort of worked, sort of...

But I decided to shift gear to something that would be more immediately gratifying ;). I marbled new round paper...

This paper is 18" - 50% larger than the round paper for the Fledermice, and that and the Fortuna block got me thinking about scale.

Sometimes, I make art mistakes because I'm seeing something as 1 issue, and instead, it turns out to be an overlap of 2+... Each material has a strength in terms of open vs. closed forms...but it also has a certain scale and tool/mark size that it likes...hmmmmmm.  Getting a little overwhelmed, I tried to separate and categorize the ideas/issues with a color coded diagram...and filled a 3 ft white board, no problem.

I got to thinking that maybe I need more than one block to create the image I have in mind.  For example, I made a plant on aluminum plate last week because some plants are more opened than closed, and I want to see if I can make it coordinate with my existing relief blocks of plants...but then I realized that the lines in the aluminum will be too fine not to be overwhelmed by the relief, I tried putting the larger lines in a pronto plate...

Of course, I haven't printed either plate yet, so, for now, it's just a guess...we'll see :).

In making the chart, one thing that I keep coming back to is wings (no surprise there), but I also keep thinking about the tapestry show I saw at the Met last year.  I think about it all the time - I loved the borders - that reminded me of life-scale versions of illuminated manuscript borders and also the cartoons. Seeing the cartoons, the drawings that were used to create the tapestries was very interesting to me, because they're an essential to the process, but not finished works in themselves (and as a result, they were often discarded and almost never displayed) in a finished tapestry there are two layers of work - a visible (fiber) layer and the invisible working layer (drawing)....

Another pattern in the chart - the shows that have had the biggest impact on me fall into two categories "Gothic stuff" and "Contemporary stuff." Surprising (to me) - all the contemporary stuff that has made the biggest impression on my over the last 3 years involves some digital processing.

So, I decided to try something. I scanned one of my favorite wing blocks and worked with it on the computer and then printed it out life-scale... 
Jr. helping establish scale
in the studio - and just like that - I have a cartoon.

Then, not forgetting about the tiny tarot! I made the next plate, "The High Priestess."  For this, I was influenced by two of my favorite's Philosophy by Durer, and a miniature from the "Consolation of Philosophy".
Philosophy by Albrecht Durer, 1502
Philosophy from Boethius Consolation of Philosophy

In conclusion - scattered progress?