Monday, July 28, 2014

phase 4 redux - block printing project, week 4

week 4: blocks #19 - 24
 It was a busy week, and I'm proud to report that I made it to the end of week 4 and have met my goal of making 6 blocks a week for a month (while maintaining non-art-life-responsibilities to the best of my ability ;) ).

Truthfully, I'm feeling a little worn out, but it's ok because I did it (!) - I've carved more blocks in the last month than in the previous 11 months combined.
I especially life this one :)

I'm getting more strategic with my tracery - because this is a symmetric shape,
it can be a right corner, a left corner, or a gable depending how it's rotated ;)

You might be thinking - Wait, isn't that from last week?
It's a variant of the inverse (last week's bird on left, this week's on right)
This way, they can be a pair (song birds get lonely)
Also, as much as I tried to resist changing too many variables so that I could focus on carving,
 now that I'm nearing the end, I couldn't help testing some different color papers and ink

I also started scanning the blocks before I start carving so that I have a digital copy of the drawings
 I think it's funny - I learned most of the theory behind this technique at a workshop with Barry Moser at Zea Mays Printmaking, in July 2013. The workshop is 3 days. Even though I knew right away that the technique could be a good fit for me in terms of pace, material, reproducibility... it's taken almost exactly a year to adapt it (I use soft blocks rather than true wood block), practice it (practice, practice, practice) and (hopefully!) start to become competent at it.

I feel like I was right about needing the mini project to develop a personalized algorithm for making new blocks. On the one hand - I can't wait to start playing with these! I've been thinking of the many ways to make variations (subtracting parts, layering, rotating, rearranging, and recombining...) On the other hand - I feel like these are just the start, and there are so many more things I want to add.

 In that spirit, I'm not quite sure I'm completely done with the mini-project...24 is a beautiful number, but it's a beautiful number as a multiple, whereas 25 is a beautiful number as a fractional part...and I feel like that's what the mini project is, the start of a larger archive of blocks (also a month is 4.25 weeks, not 4), so I feel justified in thinking that the mini-project needs one more block...

drawing on block #25...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Phase 4 redux - block printing project, week 3

Block #13 - 18

I particularly like this one
The 6 blocks-a-week-for-a-month project continues with week 3 and blocks #13 - 18.

There were moments of "Well, 5 is also beautiful number... doesn't '5 blocks a week'  have a nice ring to it..." (haha). It sounded particularly good while I was carving a full 9 x 12" block of tracery (oy); but, it's week 3(!), and I'm not conceding defeat. (Though I did carve a cute bird as the sixth and final block of the week to cheery myself).

The airplane might seem random, but I graduated
from high school in the 21st century and have
lived my entire adult life in a post-9/11 world,
so, to me, airplanes signify inescapable,
looming disaster and despair.
I think this coordinates well with Gothic iconography
 because the 14th century in Europe was also a time of
 famine, plague, and war when many political, social,
and religious institutions were in upheaval.
(waving the "nerd" flag!)

And because I'll need the mirror image to make this the top of an aedicule for Philosophia,
I'll get to carve the whole thing all over again in reverse. (Eep!)

One way of getting a symmetrical mirror image of a block is to print the first block directly onto a second one. and
use that as the guideline for carving the second block, which is what I did with these roof ornaments

put a bird in it.
In other very exciting news, my aunt and uncle came to visit this weekend and help me with house projects. In one weekend, they made the giant hole that has been in the ceiling for over a year disappear. Incredible! And they supported my idea of a door in the ceiling with a doorknob that says "exit." I think this is hysterical - an inaccessible exit that leads nowhere - lol. I look up at it while doing dishes, and every time I see it, I laugh.

scary hole before
 but I did paint the
back porch earlier this week (thumbs up!)
I couldn't help with the exit door

In addition to disappearing the hole, (and all in 2 days!) Uncle Mark converted an unused basement spigot into a utility sink. I am so happy! Now I don't need to wash out my ink plates, brayers, and blocks in the bathtub anymore! It even has a shelf below with holes so that my blocks can dry out and hooks on the legs for drying rags. It is already being put to good use - Thank you Uncle Mark!

Monday, July 14, 2014

block printing project, week 2 (#7-12)

Continuing with week 2 of my mission to carve 6 blocks a week for a month:

I'm trying to stay focused on carving, but I couldn't resist starting to arrange the prints
to get an idea of how they may work together.

blocks #7 - 12


first week of  summer figure drawing - 20 minute

Para-art - enjoying nature, researching, and gardening.

Monday, July 7, 2014

phase 3 redux - develop thoughtful algorithms, conclusion, and relief print mini-project week 1

I couldn't resist;
I had to cut it out and play with this week's blocks to see
how they might look as part of a larger composition

Firstly, to conclude phase 3 - develop thoughtful algorithms.

I feel like I had an opportunity to put this to the test with making the 3 still lifes last month, and I learned a few useful things:

1) the first step of an algorithm is usually subtractive rather than additive.

For me, it seems like the most productive general pattern is: subtraction, organization, addition. This is challenging because, as someone who's devoted to adding extraneous stuff into the life-mix, my first impulse is to jump right into the making (adding) part; but one conclusion I came to with phase 3 is that most projects go better if I remove excess material and ideas first, then organize, then add.

2) Fix some factors so that they can act as a "control" group.

With the still lifes, I was trying to learn a new paint, new support, and a new construction method, so I stuck with iconography (skulls, flowers, fruit) that I know well. It helped me focus and a few technical conclusion - golden high flow acrylic is incredible - high pigment load, ink-like viscosity, and a drying time so fast I couldn't believe. I love the new arches oil painting paper, but the support has to stay consistent between the objects and the background for it to take varnish evenly (oops - now I know ;) ).

3) The goal may not be the material result.

With the still lifes, I made the objects individually then combined them instead of paintings the still life as a unit because I wanted to know whether I could adjust the composition to existing objects instead of adjusting the objects to the maintain the composition (Yes :) ).

Now that phase 3 has reached its conclusion, I'm ready to jump into a mini project :)!

Relief Print Mini-Project

week 1 - blocks 1 - 6.
Following on the principle that not all time is the same, I looked back and concluded that July is by far my most productive art month. I tend to wake up in late March/ April, try to learn new techniques in May/June, and then in my excitement, test it out in July and early August, analyze in the fall and consolidate/ fix/ ruminate over the winter.

Over the past year or so, I've gotten really interested in relief printing. It took a while to find the paper, ink, and printing method that work best for me and to learn the tools and practice carving. I feel like I have a good grasp of the basics now, and I want to get really good at it.

Ever since I saw Durer's paper monument, I can't stop thinking - what would it be like if I had my own personal library of blocks? Picture the endless variations - different colors, different papers, different backgrounds, that I could arrange, and re-arrange, and re-arrange, in all sorts of combinations, adding blocks as needed...

On the one hand, it's a fantasy. Durer is, well, Durer (my heart be still!), and even he didn't carve the blocks for the paper monument himself (and neither did Hans Holbein the Younger for his Danse Macabre, another favorite). And I - am a lone cat person armed with a classroom pack of linoleum and a wooden spoon to print them, hahaha.

So...yes...hmmmmmm (Better not to think about it too much ;) )

If it were possible, I feel like I would need a certain minimum number of blocks as the baseline - maybe 50?

I got to thinking (uh oh ;)) - I bet if I carved a block every day, I'd get good at it, and I could reach the minimum of 25 new blocks to add to the app. 25 I've already made in about a month.... (steeples fingers -hmmmmmmm).

And so the mini-project was born.

 I'm going to carve 6 blocks a week* for one month - starting last week ;)
*with one day a week reserved for proofing and photographing

drawing based on
one of my zoo photos

in process
I use blue marker over the
areas I'm working on to
I can see where I've carved
I made the branches dense so that I can make variations
by cutting off the smaller limbs in different pieces 
In process, then cut into 3 for printing

Instead of adding black and white
ink to individualize the branches,
I printed them on found book pages.
I like the way this makes each piece
unique, but I felt terrible destroying
a book (even ones I get free off the
street). So this week, I searched until
I found a book I didn't mind tearing
apart and printing
over :p
My "classroom pack" of 12, 9 x 11.5" blocks arrived Saturday...which meant Sunday night I was up carving and proofing the parrot, snail, and frog trying to "catch up to myself," (Ahhhh, memories of the power in precision project!), but I did it - 6 blocks!

Onward :)!
with added black, white, and metallic ink

from my yard!
I predict there will be plants in the
blocks to come...
I carve kneeling on my grassy pillow on the floor and
there's just enough room on the pillow for a
small human and a feline assistant ,
(or rather, feline assistant #1 deigns to allow
the human to occupy the outskirts
of her pillow, while Jr. runs around the room,
coming over to head butt my elbow  for a pet and/or
sit on me every 30 minutes or so :)