Monday, August 29, 2016

Fun times with polyester lithography plates

 A busy week in Artlandia!   My press date to print the fox body is next Friday (! :) !); so, in preparation, I scanned, made a polyester lithography plate, and printed the mirror image of the fox's head (- the body block coordinates with both - one is posed looking forward and the other with the neck turned looking out.)
relief print left, polyester lithography print right
I am eager to continue refining this part of the process, matching the polyester prints with the relief prints, because it would give me more options for every block I have and will have. I picked up where I left off with the lorikeets - where the polyester lithography prints matched the relief prints in quality, but there were (I felt) too many misprints of the lithography plate.

Having thought about it some more - there were no misprints with the polyester lithography plates I used to print the landscape elements for the unicorn installation, and those were very difficult plates (lots and lots of very thin lines). Because those are light ink on dark paper, I realized that I used a different ink than with the lorikeets, so I ordered that ink in black to try on the fox head.

Result - I think it's an excellent match.  Even side by side, they are a little hard to compare, because I reduced the background noise for the polyester plate. Also, because I purposely individualize each sheet of paper by adding a wash of black paint (the edge of which shows in the photo), a little variation is built in to the process. That in mind, my conclusion is that they are as close a match as two relief prints would be.

Thumbs up!...but with a few caveats.  The plates wear out quickly (this was the third print from the plate and you can see how much scumming there is around the edges.) By the forth print, the whites inside the fox were just starting to fill a little. Having a very high standard on the clarity of the print may mean going through the plates quickly; however, since I'm not using it to print large quantities, that may be fine ? (Hmmm.) Or maybe the mixture I'm using to wipe the plates could be tweaked?

I got 3 usable fox heads. The first was a misprint, but I'm ok with that, since these types of plates do often seem to need one "warm up" plate to absorb the ink - one is acceptable - one.

While obsessing about these details, I started carving a new owl.  As I mentioned, my favorite blocks were discontinued (sadness).  I called the supplier and they suggested a replacement product, which I'm testing out on this. Reserving all judgement until I see how it prints.

photo by Dave Schwing

In other news, Tom McGill and Gallery at 46 Green were kind enough to include my work at the Hillsdale Arts Walk.

Preparing and packing the work, I really got to look at some of the older collages (older - as in from 2014 ;) ) with the new digital collages.

I can definitely see the relationship and recognize them both as my work, but the processes are completely different (one's analogue and one's digital). Very weird.

Speaking of digital collages... work continues on the raptor collage.  I decided it might need a vehicle in the turquoise sky, so I printed and scanned all my transport machine blocks. Who knew I had 15 of them? Not me.

In pet news, Jr. decided this week that the press bed is a nice kitty napping spot (doh.) So, Lucille will be getting a new dress (i.e. some kind of cover) ASAP.

"Oh, did you mean this lovely elevated spot in front of the window with the nice soft blankets...?"

"Here, let me rub my face on it, just to be clear." 

In puppy news, Rocky IV is dead, long live Rock V

 Flowers, bring on the flowers!

Especially into the mono-style arrangements this week;
no color correction - they really do look like this :).

Monday, August 22, 2016

fox and raptor

A busy week in Artlandia!  Having completed the blocks for the life-scale fox last week, this week I printed the head and tail blocks and booked press time (the week after next) to print the 30" block of the body - thumbs up.  

I made two subspecies of prints - first, I printed the blocks on a thin (acid free) white paper.  I loathe bright white paper, but the computer loves it (sigh), so I pulled one version of all the blocks that is specifically made to be scanned - the goal with these is to get a very clear, even, high contrast print that will be scanned to create a digital master and act as a physical "archive copy." 

The other subspecies, is on my favorite grey printmaking paper, toned by hand, and then heightened with white ink and gold (Mmmmmmmm).  These will become part of collages.  

Side by side for comparison - I think the difference shows in terms of the way the added white helps create volume - for example, rounding and bringing forward the muzzle, showing the planes in the forehead, and accenting the tips of the ears.  I also love having metallics in the eyes so that they react to shifts in viewer's position and light. Sometimes, I feel like the computer just doesn't fully appreciate the value of subtlety :p.      

And since I was printing blocks anyway, and they've been on my mind, I decided to re-print the raptor blocks. 

And then I digitally assembled them in layers, just like I would with a physical collage:
Once  that was done, I started trying them in digital collages combining them with the scans of the Gothic Tree block and a pattern I drew. Still not 100% sure if this is finished...I feel like it still needs just a little something more [and when I think that, it's usually true, so hmmmmmmm] - it's a start. 
The truth is that the raptor blocks are among my favorites. In part, they've been on my mind because I'm trying to adapt and expand the technique I used to make them to larger animals, like the fox, but beyond that, they're on my mind because I don't feel like I've used them as much as I'd like to yet.  These are a beautiful set of blocks,  and I feel like they deserve more/better. My hope is that by reprinting, scanning, and creating digital versions, I can expand the number and range of artworks in which they feature.

Following that same line of thought, I reprinted this - a Gothic architectural ornament. This is one of my early blocks, from July 2014, and it's always bothered me that I haven't used it in a collage yet. So I reprinted and scanned it while I think about how best to use it...(baby steps)

there's a metal trellis under there, with the paper held to both
sides with magnets (in case you were wondering how I can have all these prints out in a small space O:) ).
 Speaking of space...I did my annual summer space transformation.  This room had gradually become a disaster zone (in my defense, the "before" picture was taken after I started clearing out the room and had taken everything off the shelves that had been there.)

before - sadness.
after - muuuuuch better

 I am so happy with how it came together.  Mostly, this was just cleaning, organizing, rearranging, and adding one shelving unit.  It's nice to have all my art books together because I've been looking through book after book after book lately. Not exactly sure what I'm looking for, it has something to do with pattern/ornament and layers of space and Gothic tapestries/ stained glass/ architecture...(see what I mean by "not exactly sure," haha.)

Since looking at pictures hasn't yielded a clear answer yet, I decided to try to draw and not think about it (and hope that the question is running as a "background program" while I draw.) I took some stencils I have (these are about 5 cents each in a big multi-pack from the big box store.) I traced the stencils with pen and scanned the initial tracing, then printed it out multiple times to use as a personal coloring book which I filled with patterning.

I find doing this relaxing, (not unlike the line patterns I sometimes make, for example the ones from March).  While that's nice, I want to be able to do something with them (oy.)  So I tried scanning them and did some fun things - turning them into custom brushes and changing the size, color, repeating them. But one thing I wanted to do and was having trouble with was making individual shapes thicker (changing the stroke in Adobe CC terms). Finally, I had to admit what I already knew, that the program I was using isn't best suited to that, and that it's time to artist up and learn another program (it's been on my "to do" list to learn a vector based program, since so much of what I've been doing has expansion as a goal.) So, I bit the bullet and signed up for an online class in Adobe Illustrator...Let the games begin.

 In para-art news - my Little Bear continues to grow, and even though I don't have a puppy photo this week, I have a photo because of the splendid giant puppy - she led me to this excellent tree trunk in her quest to find the biggest stick (and sits on my feet and/or leans into my shins patiently while I photograph - good pup :) ).

Favorite flower of the week - the blue morning glories are blooming!  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Big Fox

We have a big fox! (Or, at least, the blocks to make a big fox...printing, still to come, but having the blocks is a big step in the right direction :D).   This week, I finished the body and made the tail.                                                                                         I was so focused on making the blocks that I haven't exactly figured out where/how I'm going to print the body (the block is too big for Lucille, my lovely press). So - either hand printing or a field trip - we'll see ;) .
New block for the tail - I feel like I'm starting to get the feel for the look of changes in the color of the fur (thumbs up!)
For the second week in a row, I've been kind of boring, focusing all my energy on the fox (on the other hand, having all the blocks for a life-scale fox within two weeks is pretty exciting - does this mean I could have, say, a horse, in month? [steeples fingers]).  

Apart from working on the fox, I've been taking the opportunity while a lot of the work was out on exhibition to clean and reorganize the studios (and the rest of the house in general). Planning/scheming and gearing up for the next big thing (more on that to come...soon.). 

In doing general repairs, I restrung my favorite swallows mobile, much to Jr.'s delight. My Princess does not look too enamored with it, but so long as it doesn't impede her from her favorite spot on the bed/ next to her human (those are my toes in the lower left), meh.  (One guess on how every string on the mobile got broken in the first place :P - let's just say, the human hung it a little higher and further from the end of the bed this time.) 

The Little Bear continues to grow and perseveres in her mission to find the largest stick in the forest on which to chew.  Since she had outgrown her puppy bed, the one she'd had since coming home with me as a baby, I brought her a new bed but wasn't sure whether she would "take" to it. Haha, no worries - I picked up a new Rocky at the same time (Rocky III having been recently beheaded like his brethren before him). I put Rocky IV in the new bed, and it seems my smart pup figured it out right away: "Mine, and also mine."

And, of course, there were flowers...
The yellow and white stripes are looking especially
lovely against the silvery grey of their neighbor.  
bonus points for being mini

Monday, August 8, 2016

big fox

I feel boring this week, because I only worked on the big fox, but then, I worked on it a lot.
fox body (with a print of the head), about 70% of the way there - still need to carve the back right leg and the lowers next to back left leg and where the hips meet the tail

[bleep], - that's a lot of tiny, carved lines. ( O:) ). Trying to get the texture of the fur, without loosing sight of the underlying muscle structure, and also indicating a change in the color of the fur...Eep!
I'm surprised, even working very hard on this, that there's so much progress on this block.  Because the Gothic Tree took a couple of months to carve, I thought the fox body would take longer than a week or two - this is a very rare instance, where it went much faster than expected (*though I hesitate to say that until it's actually proofed - still enough road left to hit a speed bump.)

In a way, Honey is partly to thank for this.  My little bear has a thing about chewing on sticks  
emerging from the woods with a giant stick.
Look at that face! 
She's getting so big, and while I was at work, she escaped her baby gated area and went into my work space. She decided to use her new found freedom to chew up the handles of her human's favorite-no long produced dockyard micro gouges. When I saw, I cried (after putting her safely back in the kitchen and hunting down all the tips - thankfully, she was not interested in swallowing the metal parts - no pet ER visit in this story!)  
it was a sad day in Artlandia
I really do need these to carve, and they aren't easily replaceable (even if I weren't attached to my particular tools, which I am :) ).  On top of this, I recently learned that my main paper source is closing and my favorite type of blocks have been discontinued [whine/sigh/whine].  I was very sad.

Thankfully,  I mentioned the unfortunate puppy chewing tools incident to sculptor Dave Cole the next day, and he graciously made new handles for the tools!  They're back, even better than before, and I was so happy, that I carved and carved and carved. (And now the world is that much closer to having a life-scale art fox in it O:) ).

These pictures do a good job illustrating why I am recarving the block at life-scale:

This is printed from the polyester lithography
plates that are blown up from the small fox
relief print
This is the newly carved version (thumbs up!)

And now...favorite flowers of the week!