Monday, February 27, 2017

Tiny print and Phoenix

New Tiny Print :) - 2.5 x 1.5" relief print  
This week was all about the tiny print.  I wanted to take a step back from the larger blocks after proofing the unicorn block last week went so badly, and I had a sample piece of a new material that I've been wanting to test out. The block material is Gomuban - it's a Japanese rubber block distributed in the US by McClain's Printmaking, who very generously sent a sample.  I've been searching for a new relief material for my smaller blocks. I'm looking for something thin enough to be stored vertically in binders, hard enough to hold fine detail, and soft enough to take curved cuts easily and not be as hard on my hands and wrists as wood (so, you know, not much really :P ).  I think this material which has a slightly harder surface layer and softer, dark core fits the bill, and bonus! the two tones make it easier to tell if the cuts are deep enough - awesome! 

A visual timeline:

I printed an earlier block, scanned it, shrunk it. (*I thought about keeping it the same size so it would be a tight comparison, but I didn't really want to push the new material by making it smaller and keep it within the size limitations for an upcoming juried show application. Also, I didn't really want to carve the same thing twice without a little variation.)
One of my earlier relief prints on the discontinued block material.  about 3 x 2.25"
Printed polyester lithography plate onto the block as a template. (*This was a little tricky, since the block is slick, but I sanded the surface first with 1500 sand paper, then hit the print with a hairdryer and dusted it with baby powder, to ensure that it was dry.  It held up just fine without smearing. ((This technique of transferring images using polyester plates as templates is one I've really honed, and it's something I'll be leading a workshop on it at Women's Studio Workshop this summer O:) ). 


Wipe the template off and check the carving - the color difference between the surface material and the core material made it easier to check the depth of the really fine cuts [thumbs up!]


Carve some more.

Final print:
Here's a comparison of prints from the two blocks side by side:  

with quarter for scale 

 I still like the older one (right), and I'm not sure I would take this composition quite this small again - I was having some trouble with the smallest cuts filling in, but then again, this is really, really, really small for a relief block, so I feel like I did push the limits of the new material, and I think I may have prioritized the cuts a little better this go round so that it has more of a sense of a light source. For a first attempt at a new material, I'll take it.

I also reprinted the bunny, one of my favorite tinies from the past year as my entries for a tiny print  exhibition.
lots and lots of proofs.
I find it a little bit funny that it took me about 6 days to make this 2.5" block, and only 4 days longer to carve the unicorn body block, which is more than 100 times larger in area.  (But then again, I did work on the unicorn body 24/7, and with the tiny block, I took it all the way to the finished print with lots and lots (and (lots) of proofs along the way.)  Still, kind of funny.

 I'm not sure if I'm any closer to figuring out what exactly went wrong or how to print the unicorn body.  I know that my paper choice is probably not ideal - I chose a thick paper which makes hand printing very challenging, but since I know I want to cut it out and sew it into a collage, I feel like I really do need the weight in the paper.  I looked at trying to use a barren instead of a spoon to get the prints more even (.... hmmmmmm).

In the meantime, I moved the phoenix print forward, hand coloring it with watercolor and color pencil and cutting it out. I think this is a good one to try some new collage ideas with because it's bigger than the individual element in the first 3 seven deadly sins prints, but still smaller than the unicorn and the fox (, by the time I get the unicorn printed, hopefully I'll have some ideas about how to use it in a whole composition? Maybe? O:) ).
I admit, I really like this one - 18 x 24" woodblock print with watercolor, color pencil, ink and acrylic.
Feline Assistant #1 - supervising

Monday, February 20, 2017

unicorn body and trays

 A busy week in Artlandia.  I finished the 24 x 30" block of the unicorn body [thumbs up]!
new block with can for scale 
This block is too big for Lovely Lucille (press) I tried to print it by hand.  And it went very, very badly.  Now, on the one hand, printing something this large by hand is difficult, but on the other, I've printed other blocks of the same material  this size  recently, and it went fine, so I'm starting to think it may not entirely be me.  The thing I printed by hand last month, (part of the Gothic Tree for Greed) was gold, not black. I've also had much more success with the gold than black for polyester plates, so I think it might be the ink (which I have tried with a variety of mediums). If that's the case, it's good timing in a sense because I've almost used up all of it I have and was looking to switch from the process black, which is cool, to a warmer black anyway.  It will take a little bit to track down a new ink and get it shipped, but that's ok, since I'm also out of paper (again - doh.)

Running out of paper also presents an opportunity, picking up on what I was saying last week about wanting to work with larger paper, I researched and found a similar paper to what I use now on a roll.   It's much bigger and cheaper per square inch and would give me more control over the sizes, so I think that's the direction I want to go in (hmmmmmm). It's a slightly different color though (and backordered anyway) so I may order a few sheets in the meantime just to be totally, absolutely sure about the color and texture before committing to a roll. By then, hopefully I'll have solved the ink question...   
shamefully bad proof :( (sadness) - the good news is that the detail in the fur printed and it is the right size for the head.  

 Since that didn't go splendiferously, I changed gears and re-printed one of my favorite tiny blocks - this 3 x 2.25" linocut of Justice.

 In addition to making paper and ink decisions, I've also been looking at some block decisions.  Since my small default blocks were discontinued last year, I've been searching for and testing possible replacements.  McClain's printmaking graciously sent samples of some of their relief blocks, and I'm looking forward to re-carving this same composition for comparison.

On the topic of supplies and blocks, this week I assembled a new tray rack for the studio. I thought this would be a good way to store the blocks.. the up side is it looks like it's going to work great, on the down side, I may have needed a bigger rack (doh! haha).

Loading the new rack with help from both feline assistants
I love how it looks like it's always been there.

 In para-art news, I saw this lovely drawing of a wing.

I also spent some time working my magic to try to reverse some of the puppy wear 'n tear.  
Pup is testing my restoration skills (still need to repaint the darker color and possibly another layer of wood filler and sanding on the outer door jamb, but still, a big improvement -  now let's just hope it stays that way - eep!)
And last, but never least, I think it's time for a feline creature feature, or "what the kitties do while the pup is frolicking in the snow." 

Monday, February 13, 2017

unicorn body and branch

A cold and snowy week in Artlandia. The upside is that I was inside carving - a lot. 

I finished the 18 x 24" block of a branch for the life scale tree (thumbs up.)  

Then...I decided to make (another) life-scale unicorn. I know, I have one...but I feel like I could make an even better one now.  I couldn't stop thinking about it (trust me, I tried.)
Print of  the head and horn blocks from the first unicorn.

Some of my supplies are low right now so carving a small block, scanning, and transferring to polyester plates to print on the block as a template isn't the best option at the moment. I started to get frustrated about this, but, then remembered that I can still draw just fine, and this isn't' my first big unicorn or creature block at this scale (the fox). I decided to draw what I want directly on the block and go for it.
24 x 30" block with underdrawing

Then I carved and carved and carved

These have a lot of scraping in them for woodblocks (the block for the head is softer.) I kept it nearby to try and keep them stylistically consistent.

The composition on the block is 22 x 30" because that's the size of the paper I'm using (Stonehenge). I could carve bigger and switch to a bigger paper, but for now that's about the maximum size that I can handle easily both during carving and printing (larger than that and it's hard for me to move the block around.)

With the first three of the seven deadly sins collages, I used the 22 x 30" paper size to set the composition size (also, I made them for the Zea Mays Flat File, where 30 x 22" is the maximum size O:) ). Now I want to shift gears and use that as the maximum size per block...which would lead to making the compositions much bigger.  I'm starting to have enough pieces to work with (the tree, the fox, the phoenix, the unicorn), but I still haven't figured out how to build the rest of the composition. (doh.)

One thing I've learned from dealing with "adhesive issues" is that like things adhere to like things (paper to paper). If the support changes, then a physical method of attachment is probably needed (like sewing paper to fabric or stapling canvas to wooden bars).  I could use bigger paper as the support, but since I don't trust adhesive, I think I want to change the support and use physical attachment methods (hmmmmmmmmm)

I've been studying lots and lots of inspirations - favorites this week, the Medieval "winged stag tapestry," as well as Harry Clarke stained glass and Kay Nielsen and Arthur Rackham illustrations.  I also went back to one of my favorite books - Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Durer and Titan,  by Larry Silver and Elizabeth Wyckoff.

The research helps...but I sort of feel like I'm on my own for some of the more technical aspects since what I want to do is specific and unusual. Luckily, one of the great things about working with prints is that because the majority of the labor is in the block, if I try something and it totally fails, I can remake the parts and try again.

One aspect I'm still working out is the ground - I think I'm looking for something between a monotype (paper marbling is a form of monotype) and a relief print - something that has a fixed matrix in it, so I sort of know what I'm going to get, but that is variable enough that it can be expanded without repetition. I'm thinking it might be collagraph (which has the additional advantage that it works well in large sheets so I could have a 22 x 30" plate and print a full sheet in one pass.)... Of course, I've never made a collagraph (haha - not that I'd let that stop me ;) .)  Hmmmm.

Lots of time carving to think about it while I finish the unicorn...

In non-art news
Honey looooooves the snow (the kitties (and human) prefer inside fun, preferably near a heated blanket and/or fireplace); however, I do love seeing the pup playing and enjoying herself.

"If I turn my head, I can pretend not to hear my
Human telling me it's time to go inside"
An activity I call "puppy snow angels"

Monday, February 6, 2017

Phoenix prints

This week - phoenix print! 

Multiple prints of the 18 x 24" block - on cream paper, grey paper, toned gray paper and toned orange paper. 

Michael Wolgemut and workshop,
 "Creation of the Birds"
from the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493. 
 For the phoenix block I was really inspired by Japanese screen painting, but I've been thinking that it would also substitute in nicely for the peacock in a life scale version of the tree with birds illustrating the Creation in the Nuremberg Chronicle (an image that's been on my studio wall in black and white on and off for about 4 years). [steeples fingers].                
And speaking of life-scale tree... I started an 18 x 24" block of a branch to add to the trunk from two weeks ago: