Monday, April 25, 2016


A difficult few days in Artlandia - including the wee hours of this morning spent in the vet emergency room.

Not as focused on artwork right now, but some photos from earlier this week...
work continues on the 4 ft block
I inked it with transparent blue to highlight areas I missed

I printed small creature blocks 

and scanned them all
so I could try a new technique I learned - converting them into smart files with
layer masks and then inserting them into digital collages

work continues on the pen-ultimate wing block....

I put together some foam core cork boards so that I could tack up the works in progress

We now have all 4 legs!

almost there...

Monday, April 18, 2016

creatures - real and paper

The unicorn is starting to come together!

Junior continues to be an excellent helper - establishing scale 
and the gradient map (-evidence: it's not that my photos are 
dark, I really do always print on gray paper ;) ).
And, of course, we all
want to see how the
little Bear has grown this week :) !

Getting better at cutting and
registering the plates and hiding the seams! 

I drew into the neck and am starting to piece 
the parts together, and also printed the front legs:

I did a little tweaking to make them into
cloven hooves [thumbs up!]

And I printed the new feather block from last week
I also kept working on the 4 ft tree block...
Carving around the branches - oy.
I also added tracery into the upper corners
(as we can see, it took a few tries - as the 

saying goes - draw twice and carve once... ;) ).

But it wasn't all art-plants, I also made my annual visit to the
fancy nursery for black flowers and unusual/ pretty plants. [heart!]

Ok, and a few more pet pictures,
because I can't help myself ;)

Rocky, after a week - 
it's a hard life for a squeaky toy

Fortunately, my dear friend Tammy sent Honey a care
package that included a new also-favorite toy, so that her
human could sneak Rocky away and into the wash.
Honey knows who her human is and is doing well
 with the crate now (I put the cot away and
 put the crate in its place with same blankets).
One last pet picture, so that all 3 of my creatures
are included - it seems my elegant Princess
has forgiven me for bringing the little
Bear home, now that it has been
established that the new addition does not
encroach upon her customary sleeping spot
 (on her human's shoulder)
and that she continues to receive breakfast first
(ah, it's good to be queen :) ).

Monday, April 11, 2016


I'm going to talk about art, I swear...but first :D...
My human-creature family has grown! (!!!!) ((!!!!!!))
This is Honey - her human thinks she's the smartest, most beautiful puppy in the world :D
She's a half lab/ half German shepherd, and came home at 8.5 weeks old.
She has expressive, dark brown eyes and soft, downy fur, and she likes being brushed.

post-playtime naps are wonderful things. 
She likes her bed, but prefers to "herd"
 her toys onto her human's pillow. (I set
up a cot near her bed, so she wouldn't be
lonely her first night. Since then,
 I rest with her until she falls asleep at night,
(just until she adjusts to her new home
 and trusts that I'm coming back.)

Ok, now art...[focus!] Right now Honey is staying in the kitchen and adjacent bathroom behind a baby gate. We're still working on "family unity" - she seems to accept the kitties, but they aren't so sure about her yet. In the meantime - I'm trying to bribe my way back into their feline good graces with lots of brushing and treats (it's sort of working - baby steps). So art! - I set up to carve my 4 ft block downstairs near the kitchen so Honey can see me while I'm working on the block or at the computer or on the press (and I can keep an ear on her even while I'm working).

Progress on the 2 x 4 foot block = that's a lot of shavings!

 I also finished this 10 x 18" wing block (lately, I feel like I'm always either starting or finishing a wing block ;)) - but this one really is the next to next to last one (*the pen-pen-ultimate?)
The wings are carved into clearcarve, a transparent rubber-like material, while the tree block is MDF. Going back and forth has really brought to mind the differences between the different types of block material.  Even though they're both relief blocks, every material has a style of carving it "likes."   
This is my first time working with MDF, but it seems to fit with some general observations - harder materials like straight cuts. The harder the block, the more it lends itself to straight lines because it takes all the energy to move the tool forward - turning the tool would take "extra" force, i.e. "forcing it" (for me, this is generally when bad things happens, so - Avoid!) Because it's a composite material, it doesn't have a grain direction like sawn wood, so the cuts can easily go in any direction. I'm going to need lots of curved cuts for the tree - I think I can either pre-cut the edges with a straight blade tool (like I did in the photo above), or use short (careful!) strokes. 

Hopefully, (fingers crossed!) the contrast between the straight cuts in the background and architecture, and the curved cuts of the tree and landscape will be striking. [hmmmm...]

Softer block materials accept longer, curved cuts more easily (thumbs up!)

And now, because I can't help myself - one more round of Honey photos :)

Muybridge-inspired puppy shots - Honey with Rocky, the squeaky raccoon.

Monday, April 4, 2016

unicorns, feathers, and snow

A busy week in Artlandia!  Work continues on the life-scale unicorn...

I refined the tail from last week:
last week - straight off the press

cut out and refined with ink, color pencil and acrylic

Happy with the way it's coming together - the seam between the plates is nearly invisible (even to me, and I know where it is - thumbs up!)

I printed the the neck. I decided to print it on two separate pieces of paper (haha - now that I'm getting better at seamlessly printing multiple plates on a single sheet, I decided to print them separately ;) ).

     The reason I cut the plate then printed them separately is so I could have multiple head positions. 
These are just a loose demo, but I think starts to show what I mean about needing to be able to adjust the seam of the neck to correspond to different head positions (you can see how the angle of the seam between the two neck pieces changes as the head position moves.) I think once I cut the print with the head behind the jaw and make some slight changes with ink to the eyelid and position of the iris it will work well in all 3 positions. (and funny, I printed 3 necks, 3 heads, 3 tails...)

     I prepared the files for the legs and am gearing up to transfer them to plates and tackle them this coming week. The legs will be a combination of seamless and separate printing - I'll try to seamlessly print each leg by combining two plates (with the seam shaped to the contour of the knee and hidden in the shadow under the joint), but I'll print each leg separately so that I can see if  they can be combined in different combinations for different stances.  

      But it wasn't all unicorns...I also made the ink drawing on the 2 x 4 ft mdf panel based on an earlier 8 in block - not a bad likeness, right?

8 inches
4 feet

      And (and, and) work also continues on the giant wings. At this point (months and 100's of hours of carving later) this is getting a little tedious. While that in and of itself is not a big deal (everyone has more and less interesting parts of their jobs, shrug), I feel that maintaining interest matters in terms of the result - that in order for the finished blocks to match,  in that moment while I'm carving. each one has to be the most important thing. So to try to maintain focus, I've slowed down and only carve on them a couple of hours a day, (which means finishing will take even longer - oy) but I keep telling myself - when they're done, they really will be something beyond the ordinary (fingers crossed that this isn't just an extended exercise in self-deception :P ).

feathers, feathers, feathers

     A lot going on to be sure.  One of the big art-support things this week to facilitate productivity - I set up the space I have christened "my printshop" (i.e. my living room). [Fair warning! I'm about to nerd out on some printshop details, so, if not a printmaker, you might want to skip this part O:) ]

     While the addition of Lovely Lucille (the press) was a major (major!) first step, it became clear pretty quickly that more table space was needed (especially when working with multiple plates). Not only the scale, but the height and stability (and $) of the table are important, so I took some time researching to find the right one and ended up getting a stainless table from a restaurant oversupply company. Then...after moving the press (by myself - fun times - thank goodness for heavy duty sliders!) I set up the table and repositioned the other table across from it.  I kept the wood table (which I'd already modified to add a paper towel holder and small pegboard for my brayers and spatulas) and covered the floor with those foam tiles for gyms and playrooms for added cushioning and easy cleaning. The trashcan and recycling moved to the "deadzone" under the space that has to be left open for the moving press bed.  I also added a metal garden lattice which is perfect for putting up prints to dry with magnets. I added the black board to keep track of the stages of different ongoing projects and a tiny mirror with a hook behind the press so I can see the microgauge on the side that faces the wall easily and my apron can go on the hook behind the press (accessible, but out of the way.) I also added a plant (yes to greenery!) and got some very inexpensive metal mesh bins for under the table so that I all my ink and additives are separates and contained, but still visible, and moved my paper sorter from another room. One of my favorite things about this new arrangement is that the printing position is right in front of the window, looking out onto flowers. Big thumbs up!!!

Before (L); After (R)

Before (L); After (R)
     So so happy! At first, I thought it might seem a little funny to have a shop in the main living space, but then I realized that the stuff other people might put here (a couch, a TV, a dining table) - I don't actually have (because I think they take up too much that could be used for a printshop instead, haha ;)! ) Initially, I was also a little worried that it might make my house seem messy or chaotic to guests (though not worried enough not to do it :P). Now, I think it looks neat and organized, and unless I'm in the middle of working, it should really be clean and not have ink, papers, or plates out anyway. Art-space improvement mission accomplished? O:)

     Spring really is home improvement time - this week I repaired the existing fencing and built a cinder block wall with gate (and planted some knockout roses in front to distract from the concrete with flowers). I put pavers down beneath the gate, but still have a little work remaining there...

      I worked really hard this week to improve things at home - the big printmakers convention (Southern Graphics Council International) was going on in Portland. I've never been. Many friends and colleagues attended, and I would have loved to see them, hear about the latest developments in the field and see material and technique demonstrations (and - free samples...possibly? O:) ) ...but I decided not to try to go this year, and instead put all my time, energy and resources into making things better at home. Next year's convention is in Atlanta...when I think about how much has changed between last year and this year, it doesn't seems impossible...

Last (but never least) - cute kitty story!'s snowing today - a lot.  My feline assistants haven't seen much snow this winter and are well on their way to changing into their spring coats.  This past week they took turns sitting in the window while their human worked in the yard (in a T-shirt nonetheless).  So, when we woke up to a snowday, Mini was sitting on the bed and looking out the window at the yard (as usual), and her human sat up and stretched and petted her (as usual). Then I saw the white covered yard. She turned to me and made her curious noise (half way between a "hello" meow and the "I see a bug" chitter). Haha - all I could say to this was "True." (Meanwhile my Princess was next to me stretching and ignoring the outside - so long as she has her spot on the heated blanket, let it snow ;) ).