Monday, November 16, 2015

Burlap Texture for a Linocut Tutorial

I keep being pulled in so many directions and am sorry I don't get around to blogging more. Another summer has passed and winter is almost here. We were gone in Finland for a good part of the summer. It was a nice break from routines, and by the time we came back we were ready to get back into them.

I've got a lot of new prints that have happened since the last post and this and have lots of photos to share. I'm hoping as the season quiets down next month, maybe I could get some time to reminisce the year past and share some of those things. The things that had me creating at a higher than normal rate was some customs, and a solo show that goes up in two weeks! Since the kids, I haven't carved as much as I used to, so for my exhibition, I wanted to have some newer things to show too. But more on those in the next posts.  

Above, Aila feeding the ducks at the pond by our house. We go several times a week for scavenger hunts and of course to keep the ducks alive and healthy. Below a shot of my booth from the Texas Reds Festival in September. The first art show I did since before we moved to Germany. It was a lot of work putting everything together for an art fair again, but now with some Christmas sales coming up, I am benefitting having prints ready to go on a moments notice.  

Above, a shot from the October 1st Friday in Downtown Bryan, TX. It was the 10 year anniversary of first fridays in Bryan, so the whole night was packed from start to finish. I had a linocut and press ready to go, and over 150 people came by that night and printed off a souvenir for themselves. 

So those are some of the things that have been going on over here. The reason for this post is to share a fun tip for adding texture to a linocut. I have a student who wanted to work on a reduction print with designs inspired by Navajo rugs. The plan was to have white (paper), red and black. But we thought it would be nice to have some texture in the print, reminiscent of the rugs, so the printed areas would not be so flat and would have some visual interest. 

On the way home that night, I came up with the idea of using burlap to impress a pattern onto the block before printing it on paper. I tested a couple different fabrics and combinations of things and this worked the best in the end:

-First print the plate with a light tone of the final color you want. Then let the prints dry. 

-Second ink it up again with a darker hue of the same color. 

-Third. Place the block on the press, news print on the top, and piece of burlap on top of the newsprint. If you usually use a felt for printing linocuts, place that on top of the burlap, and run through the press. 
The news print will pick up the areas that the burlap pressed down, leaving a positive image on the plate once you remove the burlap and newsprint. We used the same piece of newsprint and burlap for the whole edition. So this was also an economical way of doing it. 

-Fourth, place your actual printing paper on the plate, and run through press again, now printing a second textured layer of ink on the paper. The results were pretty fun, and gave the print some visual interest. 

You could also play with different colors and variations. I also tried printing a negative of the burlap, but did not find it visually as interesting. You can do that by using your printing paper instead of the newsprint the third step. 

Here is a video of the process, so you can see it in action. 


Here are a few more shots of the prints drying. I'll update when we have the final black color printed. 
Many thanks to Thomas Cavaness, who let me use his print in this post as an example. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Updates of All Sorts

Print I did for the reduction linocut demo
Spring has sprung in Texas and as the seasons change so does my work in the studio. I have dedicated April to be my printmaking-only month. The beginning of the year has flown by sewing customs and I finally had to say "stop" to all that and reclaim my space back as a printing studio. Now that I have cleaned a mountain of fabric and bits of thread off the tables, I have ink, paper and brayers ready to go.

The rest of the year is dotted with lots of print related events so I am happy to be in the studio to make more work and to share it with others. I am also teaching a good amount, and if you are local to the Bryan/College Station area, see my Facebook page for regular events and updates, or if you are not on FB, ask to be put on my local mailing list for events that goes out about once a month. Here's a quick rundown on whats coming up:

First of all I am teaching an ongoing printmaking class on Thursday nights in Bryan, TX. It's been a lot of fun and is open for everyone to attend. There will be several workshops coming up in May and September at the Forsythe Galleries at Texas A&M and the Arts Council of Brazos Valley.

I just did a demo yesterday for the local art league, about reduction linocuts, and will do another one on engraving for the Forsythe Galleries (TAMU) in July.

Demoing at the art league, photo by Nikki Smith
This week I am working on a wood engraving for the cover of the next Wood Engravers Network publication, Block and Burin. It's a really fun project so far. I don't want to reveal the image too much until after it hits the mailboxes, but here's a *little* sneak peak.

As soon as I'm done printing this one, I have a piece to make for an invitational exhibition at the Forsythe Galleries. Some local artists were selected to make work inspired by pieces in the University's collection. I was given a nice watercolor by Stanley M. Long that features a horse and rider to work off of. More on that later when I get to it.  

In May I teach a workshop on making linocut postcards and then take off with the kids to Finland for a month and a half. I'm going to try really hard to finish the book on Finnish wallhangings while I'm there and have my parents help on babysitting the kids. The project has been going for a long time, and I think I have enough to finally put it all together.

After we get back there will be an art fair in Bryan, TX, that I am looking forwards to participating, some classes, and a solo show at the Sead Gallery (also in Bryan) at the end of the year that I'm really excited to create new work for.

I have so many ideas brewing and already know I won't have time to make even half of what I want. Some ideas are for nice exhibition prints and then some ideas are for small prints that would do well at an art fair and on Etsy. Hmmm, and come to think of it my website needs a revamp too, but looking at all this, it'll probably have to wait until the end of the year!

I have some nice websites to share for resources but wanted to do a separate write-up for that. You can look forwards to a press-maker, image resources and other random things that are out there as soon as I get another chance to sit down and write.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Imprinting the American West: Engravings from the late 1800's

The Forsyth Galleries at Texas A&M are featuring some prints and paintings depicting the wild west from the 1800's. We visited last week and loved examining the beautiful wood engravings they had on display. I took some cell phone shots so that you can see a little on them too. The variety of mark making from one artist to another is fascinating to me and there is always something to be learned from how they treat surfaces. **As a disclaimer, these shots are not the best, but I did leave the images fairly large, so that you can blow them up to see the best detail.**

First off Fredric Remington, Mexican Infantry on the March, appeared in Harper's Weekly, April 19, 1890. A wood engraving. Based on a painting, this illustration is one of several depicting life in Mexico that the artist made following a 6-week trip on assignment for Harper's Weekly. 

The first image you can see the whole engraving, and then there's three closeups. I really admire the way the Remington has treated the lights and the darks here.  

Below is a closeup of the soldiers. I like the variety of parallel lines, cross hatching and stippling to get all the different values and textures.

The head of the horse has some sets of parallel lines that make up the shapes around the mouth and nose. This almost feels like 3-d modeling to me.

This is another engraving after a painting by Remington. This one is called An Ox Train in the Mountains, it was done for Harper's Weekly for the May 26, 1888 issue. The caption for this one was interesting to me: "As author Randolph Marcy wrote in his influential manual The Prairie Traveler (1859), "when the march is to extend 1500 or 2000 miles, or over rough sandy or muddy road, I believe young oxen will endure better then mules; they will, if properly managed, keep in better condition, and perform the journey in an equally brief space of time. Besides, they are much more economical, a team of six mules costing six hundred dollars, while an eight-ox team only costs upon the frontier about two hundred dollars. Oxen are much less liable to be stampeded and driven off by indians, and can be pursued over and overtaken by horsemen; and, finally, they say, if  necessary, be used for beef.""

As I mentioned with the horse in the above engraving. I really liked the groups of lines that make up the varied shapes both in the landscape and the ox.

The following hand watercolored engraving is based on Henry Farny's original watercolor painting, The Captive. The engraving is titled The Prisoner and was carved for Harper's Weekly, February 13, 1886 issue. The caption for the painting reads: "Quietly dramatic, the scene invites the viewer's speculation as to the prisoner's unenviable fate. The shift in title from The Captive for the watercolor to The Prisoner for the illustration may have been intended to highlight exotic cultural difference: the Plains Indian method of detaining and punishing wrongdoers by exposure to nature's elements differed markedly to the federal and state prison system."

I love the bright red in the indian cloak. It obscures the engraving in places, but when you look at the colored print as a whole, its has just the right amount of black ink and color. It's something hard to achieve, because often the engraving is so powerful the colors look forced.

From this one I would love to learn how to carve grass and so well and am really interested in how the cross hatching in the body on the ground creates the dimensionality of it. 

This picture shows a nice fade from the grass to the hills. Even the distant riders have stippling in them so that they are not too prominent in the image.

Rufus F. Zogbaum, Painting the Town Red, Harper's Weekly, October 16, 1886
This wood engraving shows four cowboys on horseback barreling through a frontier town. It reminds me of the engravings from the original Alics in Wonderland book. The way that the lines are carved, seems like the image was first drawn as a line drawing, which was then carved around to make the plate. If you look closely at the lines in the engraving, they look more like a pen and ink drawing than an engraving like the above showed images.

This was my favorite engraving from the whole exhibition. So there will be a lot of closeups of it. It's called Snake Dance of the Maqui Indians, made for Harper's Weekly, November 2, 1889 issue. Here is what the label stated: "Following a photograph by Cosmos Mindeleff, Farny, a student of Albert Beirstadt drew this performance to serve as an illustration for an article in Harper's Weekly. Indian cultures in the southwest became subjects of increased fascination among anthropologists, artists, and laypersons alike throughout the late nineteenth century due to the growth of the railroad, which reached present-day Albuquerque, New-Mexico, in 1880. The Moqui, or Hopi, culture in present-day Arizona inspired special scrutiny because many of their practices appeared to Anglos to be very similar to witchcraft. The Snake Dance, an elaborate ceremony of rain, ranked among the most frequently represented rites, because it seemed particularly exotic.

Compared to most of his artistic peers, Farny possessed exceptional knowledge and understanding of Indian cultures: He under soot and spoke many Indian languages and was adopted by the Zuni and the Sioux."

The way line is treated in this engraving is so masterful and intriguing. It is very different from the other engravings I showed so far. The carving really shows control of the tools and how to use them just right. I love the way he gets light areas where the sun hits the leaves and the way the texture in the stone walls are created.

Here's some closeups of the people, equally masterfully carved. Again, I apologize for the poor quality of the photos, but you can get a pretty good eyeful of the linework.  

Some smaller people on the wall. I love the way the folds of the clothing is implied on the person on the bottom right corner and the way the store walls are carved to show texture and pattern.

The below photo is somewhat blurry, but the detail shots came out better. I thought it was an interesting depiction of the railroad and buffalo. The maker was indicated as unknown, but it appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, in June 3, 1871. It is a wood engraving with watercolor. This one is similar to the four horsemen where it looks like it was partly engraved around a ink drawing. There are some fun details and nice areas where the eye can rest and the watercolor compliments the thin lines nicely.  

I hope you enjoyed this little mini tour of engravings. I've got some limited edition books to share with you too and some new work. As something new, I have a Facebook page now where I feature the latest classes and exhibitions so the blog can be more concentrated on tutorials, introductions and reviews. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Studio Hacks- Ruler that does not move and Drying rack

Working hard or hardly working? It's been the latter for a while now, and finally this week I've been putting in my concentrated efforts in the studio to get ready for events and Christmas. Its fun to get back to working when you have some events to look forwards to. My movable press will be hosted at the Frame Gallery in Bryan, TX, for Dec First friday. Visitors to the gallery will be able to print a small keepsake card while listening to some good music and browsing some great art in the gallery. I've spent time matting and packing my small prints for the night. It's grown into a nice little pile by now. 

I also had a vision of a winter scene that I really wanted to execute before Christmas to send out as gifts to some friends far away. It's moving in the same direction as my last engraving with a donkey; experimenting with composing and carving landscapes. 

I felt quite lost at how to represent snow and snow covered trees in black and white, so I only did a loose sketch on the block before carving. I thought maybe I'd try some stippling, but then quickly figured I did not have that kind of time to use for this block so started carving lines instead. I still ended up using stippling in some small areas to vary the mark making a little bit. (All the photos are snapped with my cell phone, so excuse the quality) 

It took a while to carve the image with the kids running around, but it was finally done yesterday and I took the time to set it on the press at night and tear paper. Which brings me to Studio Hack # 1

Ever been tearing paper with an average metal yard stick? It's flimsy and likes to move around on you when you tear paper making for curved tear lines. I finally had enough, and decided to do something about it. I have a short ruler with cork on the back, which is lovely to use, so I wanted to transfer that idea with the least amount of effort to my big ruler. I didn't have any cork at home, but did have a bit of faux suede from Joann's, which was the perfect material to use. I cut a strip of it about the width and length of the ruler, used some spray adhesive sprayed on the back of the ruler and carefully laid the fabric on the top. 

Presto chango, ruler that does not slip ready to go! The fake suede is perfect on the paper, it has a nice grip and needs now minimal pressure to stay put when tearing paper. You can even see in my picture that the cut job for the strip is less than accurate, but it still works great. I'd assume that any fabric that has some tack against paper would be good for this. 

Now back to printing! Here's some pics of the block on the press and printing. Ink, was a mix of some black and blue. 

I decided to try to print this on my Korrex flat bed press, which as usual turned out to be a great learning experience. I've always printed my engravings on my proofing press or the adana mini press,  but since this was "larger" (4x6! lol, for me), I thought the Korrex would be good for the job. Getting everything ready to print took a lot of proofing and tweaking and makeready, but as I went along it came apparent that it would be impossible to print this with only the press rollers. Which I probably should have known before starting.

The two issues to solve were:
1- the surface of the block was not even from the manufacturer. The top and bottom edges had big dips in them, making it impossible for the press rollers to ink them up while inking the rest of the block properly.
2- the block has both areas of very small detail and large solids of the tree trunk and sky, where varying degrees of pressure and amount of ink is needed to transfer the image properly. 

First I needed to use a bunch of paper to get the block level so that it would ink up evenly. 

Then I used a sheet of transparency for the makeready. This was a sheet that was passed through the press under the sheet of paper every time. It was easy to add tissue to by taking the proof, then tearing pieces tissue paper and putting glue on it, then placing it glue up on the print and placing the transparency on the top of the print and tissue to glue them together. You can see the final makeready with lots of tiny tissues stuck to it in the picture below.  

After all the fussing with tissue paper all over the place, I still needed to supplement the press rollers by inking by hand certain areas that were lower. As printing went along, it ended up just being easier to ink the whole thing up by hand and not adding any more ink on the press rollers. When I do this the next time, I'll remove the rollers and just hand ink. 

Studio Hack #2 Drying rack
If you are printing at home and don't have room for a normal drying rack what do you do? Use a clothes drying rack instead. We got this while in Germany for about $20, and the three racks go down and the whole thing folds to about 3" deep so its great to store behind a door or in the garage. And it obviously doubles as our clothes drying rack too. Here is one I found on for sale. 

Yeah, it's only 3 levels, but since I print small, I can fit a lot per shelf, and when its full, I just start another layer on the first one. But there would be no room in our house to keep anything that does not fold down and now I can print, transfer my prints to this rack and let them dry out in the garage, without worrying about the kids getting their hands on them or trying to move around a drying rack in an already cramped space. 

Here's a last shot of the prints drying. They'll be available in my etsy shop in the next week or so.

Lastly some announcements: I'm included in both the Wood Engravers' Network Triennial Exhibition and the 77th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Woodengravers. The first is showing for three years at various locations in the US, and the other will be up in Great Britain at several galleries. You can find the locations and dates from the respective links above.

If you are in the College Station are in December, come and visit me at the Frame Gallery in Downtown Bryan for first friday. I will be setting up from 5.30pm to about 9pm.
I hope everyone has a great Thanks giving break! I'll try to post some pics from first friday sometime after the event. I've got one more print hack to share, but this post is long enough as it is, so we'll save it for next time.