Monday, September 26, 2016


This week - feathers, lots and lots of feathers (oy.) Now, considering the first human-scale wing took about six months carve, I've been (understandably?) thinking very very hard about how best to go about making the second wing.

Some of the recent experiments printing mirror images of blocks by printing then scanning and creating polyester plates grew out of the question: "do I really need to carve a second wing?"

The experiments were productive and I concluded that yes, I could print the second wing by making polyester plates based off the relief blocks I already have...but that I'm not going to.

I know, it seems contradictory, but once I got the answer of "yes, it could be done that way," I started to consider other factors.

1) The size. Polyester plates created with the computer as an intermediary are printed with toner. My laser printer prints 8.5 x 14" max (*I could take them to a photocopier and put them on 11 x 17" plates, but the photocopying decreases the resolution, and for these, it matters that the scans and prints have very high resolution); so, I would be working with a mosaic of lots and lots of 8.5 x 14" plates.  That's not a deal breaker (it's how I made things like the unicorn body), but there's another factor...

2) How many times am I going to print it? My experience is that the plates have been wearing down quickly. While that's something I'm working to change, my feeling right now is that, if it's something I'm ever going to want more than 3 or 4 of, it's worth considering carving (particularly if it's something with a lot of plates, because the more plates there are, the less likely it is that they'll all be perfect at the same time). That's not a deal breaker either, but there's one more thing, that's the most decisive, but also most difficult to put into words...

3) I think the second wing needs it's own blocks because it's a "priority object" - I'm going to commit art-sacrilege and admit that, for me, not everything in the composition is of equal importance. While I may use polyester plates to invert a plant or animal in the scene, to me, the wings are too important not to have their own blocks.

18 x 24" MDF block with 2 relief blocks printed on it as guides
[Sigh.] And that is how after dragging my feet for two months and trying lots of experiments to avoid carving a second wing, I finally admitted to myself that there will be no short cut.  (And here, the voice of Delusion helpfully adds: "O, maybe it won't really take that long the second go round," haha.)

Just because I'm carving the second wing, doesn't mean I don't want to go about it as expeditiously as possible O:) .  Since carving the first wing, I've learned to carve MDF, which is good, because it's much (much) less expensive than the blocks for the first wing and comes in larger sheets. The bigger block size allows me to combine sections and use fewer blocks - thumbs up.  I also have some additional tools now - after carving the Gothic Tree, I invested in some larger gouges. (I heart new tools!)

I toned the block and printed the plates for the first wing directly onto the block to act as a template. The new tools and different material mean that this one will be slightly different, but I like that, since as biological object, the symmetry shouldn't be perfect. Then I started carving...(and carving, and carving).

With feet for scale.  Not to jinx myself (forbid!), but I'm surprised how far it's come.
Carving the blocks for a second time is a challenge too in terms of maintaining interest and focus. I took breaks and walked around looking at all the magical things that ebb and flow through town:  

It's a large metal seal with ruby eyes and a hinge in the tail so that the body can act as a storage compartment (??)

...And then there's this....
the stuff nightmares are made of.
Creature Update:
Honey disemboweled her new bed and Rocky V is headless.
It was hard on her having to wear the cone, and she was
 sooo happy to have it off. (Notice the empty toy basket as she played with
every single one of her toys and scattered them all over the room to
celebrate having her peripheral vision unblocked :) ).
Her little belly is healing and her soft, beautiful fur is growing back.  
...speaking of her beautiful fur -
look at how feathery her tail and hind legs have gotten! 

And because I love all my creature family, here are my Feline Assistants
being cute and loving. I love how Jr. is reaching out to rest her paw on Princess's
shoulder, and the Princess is (gasp!) letting Jr. have the spot
 all the way on the pillow. (They really do love each other. :) ).

My favorite little Japanese maple turns 1!
 (I got this tree at a 90+% discount the day before it
would have become mulch, and look at her now :) ). 
One can never have too many beautiful sunsets.

Monday, September 19, 2016


The world needs more art-owls.

I'm back! (Sort of  - stitches come out tomorrow  (yay!!)) It will still be a while before I'm at 100%, but I felt well enough to try to start carving again. Working on this owl was a good place to start because they're some of my favorite creatures (off the top of my head, I think this is my 6th owl block, and I still love carving them :) .)  Also, seeing the documentary on Bosch last week was inspirational (Bosch had a thing for owls too - they show up everywhere in his work).    

This is the new replacement block material for my favorite, sadly-now-discontinued blocks (which, at this point, I should try to start thinking of as the new "default block" material, but I'm still clinging to the last dregs of hope that maybe I'll still find a new distributor for the old material, or maybe the company will change their mind about discontinuing them, or a box will show up in a warehouse somewhere...) 

It's different - it's more expensive (about 2X the price - sadness), and significantly harder, about halfway between the old block material and a hard synthetic plate like resingrave. This means it takes more force to carve, which is going to be a bit of an adjustment for me, because I like curved cuts, and the harder materials prefer straight cuts (it always take more force to turn the tool than it does to push it forward in a straight line). I may be able to warm the blocks to help with that a little. The surface being harder also meant that carving was slower, though this might change as I get used to the new material. Also, I'll need to refine my ink viscosity - some of the detail filled in in the prints (next round, I can try adding more magnesium carbonate to the ink to stiffen it.) Getting a nice even print was more difficult (softer blocks are easier to print because the surface has more "give"), but I think I have the right pressure now (and the press pressure would always have needed to be calibrated for any new block material, so we'll give it a "pass" on that). 

Ultimately, it was a little frustrating, whether because I'm still recovering or because I don't yet have the same facility with these that I did with the other blocks or because I still have a some residual sadness/anger about my favorite blocks being discontinued (or (d) all of the above :p ).  But (But!) in the end, we have a new owl(!) and I do think that in a few months, I'll have worked out the details on how best to work with this material, and it will be a good addition to the arsenal.    

After printing the new block, I scanned it, and it's the central character in a new digital collage ....
Still in process, but worth a little frustration, no? O:) 

Creature Update:
My little bear continues to heal and, though she doesn't know it, the much-hated cone comes off tomorrow. (thumbs up.)

After an unfortunate puppy encounter, I had to replace the grassy carving pillow - it seems my Princess approves of the new round pillow (I got up to go to the bathroom and by the time I got back, she'd completely settled in - glad to see that my feline assistants continue to be willing to keep the carving pillow warm for me ).

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Week of No Art

The Week of No Art.

For health reasons, I wasn't able to do much this arting week.  Much time was spent resting with the kitties (who shared me - usually my Princess sleeps next to my head or shoulder, and Jr. has the lower half of the bed as her domain, but when it became apparent to them that I couldn't reach down to pet her, Princess gave her little sister a temporary pass to snuggle under my arm so I could pet them both.)  My Little Bear is recovering from her spay surgery - she did great, and I was happy that I could be home with her while she recovered.

Since I couldn't make much art, I read about art - finally reading Douglas Percy Bliss' "A History of Wood Engraving," and looking up the not-pictured references as I go; and I went to a movie about art - Pieter van Huystee's "Hieronymus Bosch, Touched by the Devil," a documentary about a group of art-world professionals organizing a major retrospective of Bosch's work in his hometown on the 500th anniversary of his death.  And I did my best to keep up in the course I'm taking in Adobe Illustrator.  

All good things...but it's not the same.  

Thankfully, I'm on the mend and (fingers crossed!) will have a green light to get back to work soon.  

Monday, September 5, 2016


I forgot to take into account the federal holiday when planning the blog entry this week (my usual wi-fi spots were closed), and now it is late, and I've forgotten what it was I was going to say (Oops).  Luckily, there are some good pictures from this week. O:)

As promised, we have foxes (2!) Both heads fit with the body - whew! One plans, but never really knows until it's all printed.  It isn't glued down yet and still some minor adjustments to help the transitions between the segments, but exciting to see!

I tried to capture in a photo the metallics in the eyes 

I printed the body at Women's Studio Workshop.  It was great to be back. :)

print of the block of the body with a soda can for scale

The block fit on the press and printing went well - thumbs up!
A close up of the edge - cutting this out was...challenging.
...but I had lots of feline assistance -
Junior helped

and my Princess did too.
No puppy photos this week (I know - hard to believe. Of course, there are puppy photos, just none that do her beauty justice :P ). However, I have some nice shots from our walks in the nature preserve, the existence of which shows what a good, patient pup she is.