Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Another tool for the Plan B arsenal

During the process of working a reduction block I frequently make "mistakes" that cause me to rethink my next steps for carving and printing. Most are small and they're either not critical or they're solvable through subsequent ink passes. Every once in a while, though, I make a mistake on the LAST pass... and that takes a bit more headscratching.

A few days ago I printed what I expected would be my second-to-last color on this autumn landscape linocut. I wanted a little more interest in the middle-ground dark trees than just a flat color, so I thought a few highlights would do the trick.

So far, so good.

But for some reason I just couldn't wrap my head around how to make the sort of marks I wanted for the highlights, so when I started printing the final color it just looked too spotty and busy. The marks were too similar to those in the background.

Okay, I thought. I'll just join some shapes together and vary them more and it will be fine. So I carved some more and printed again.


These shapes seemed overbearing, and rather than bring dimension to the trees, they seemed to flatten out. What the heck?

And then I realized what the problem was. The trunk of the second-from-left tree had been cut out at the wrong step... and the background green was showing through the middle of the tree instead of the highlight color. Damn.

There are ways to fix these things. It's possible, for example, to "pounce" color over an area with a brush and stencil (a technique called pochoir)... but I'm not experienced with pochoir, and the idea of having to do that over an obvious area in the entire edition with unknown results was not appealing.

This looked like a job for wood filler.

I've never used wood filler to repair a block, so this also seemed a bit risky, but I figured I could always carve it back out again if it didn't work and try something else.

Who knew there were so many kinds of wood filler? I stood in front of the shelf at our local hardware store for a longer period of time than I expected, and finally settled on this small tube of Elmer's brand "Carpenter's Wood Filler." I applied several "mooshings" of filler in the cracks... each time it dried it shrank (shrunk?) a little.

Then I sanded it smooth. The patch still seemed a bit shallow at this point, but I am not a patient person so I decided to go ahead and print anyway. I did recarve one spot that had gotten filled in during my overzealous application of goo.

Well, whaddaya know? It worked. Probably would have worked better if I had applied filler one more time-- I had to rub a little harder on the patched spots to get good ink transfer because they were just a skosh lower than the rest of the block surface-- but in general it worked out just fine. It's not a technique I intend to employ on a regular basis, but it's good to have in the arsenal of back-up plans.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fieldwork Frogday. With penguins. And cabbage.

Trips out of "our" valley seem to happen in clusters. I might not get more than a few blocks beyond the house for weeks at a time, and then suddenly I feel as though I'm hardly ever home. Last week I accompanied the DM to his gig in Manitou Springs for the first time since September or October, and this week I tagged along again for two more days of gigs in the same area. I expect to make the trip again in a couple of weeks...

You would be right in thinking I have plenty of opportunities to listen to David play here at home, but those opportunities aren't typically within a 30-minute drive of tigers and gorillas and lizards, and I've been really jonesin' to draw more critters lately.

So while we were down in the city (again) I tucked my sketchbook under my arm and toddled off to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (again), where I drew bullfrogs and penguins (again). The bullfrogs and penguins (and hippos and komodo dragons) are housed in the same building, and I usually end up there because it's a facility with decent light and workable vantage points from which to draw. I admit it: Some days I like my "field"work with a dash of comfort.

The advantage to being in the building on this particular day was that we got to watch the hippos enjoy an afternoon snack. By which I mean a keeper placed an entire (large) head of cabbage in each open hippo mouth. Kerrr-UNCH! Who knew that cabbage could make such a satisfying noise?

This morning we're home again and I got back to work on the landscape linocut. The second-to-last color went down just fine and then... oops. Problems.

Stay tuned for the resolution, but until then I wish everyone a week like cabbage in a hippo's mouth: Something to really sink your teeth into.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

And a little bit more...

There are plenty of days, or even moments throughout days, when I question my efforts as a printmaker. Maybe I should be pursuing some other career...

But then I put a blended roll of blue and green inks on a block and doubt just melts away. Seriously. Would someone who wasn't a printmaker feel a chill up their spine when confronted with this? I kinda doubt it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Autumn landscape linocut progress

Printing continues to be slow in the new year, although I now have two larger linocuts mounted and drawn and ready to start carving. A batch of "white" Awagami Kozo arrived two days ago and yesterday I trimmed it down to size for the 12 x 18-inch block that's next in the queue. I'm excited to start it, but also a little bit nervous.

In the meantime, I've been working in fits and starts on this small landscape. The last time you saw it it had just the blue sky and tiny violet hillside in place, but a fair amount has happened since then. Naturally I kept forgetting to take the camera to the studio, so two steps are undocumented. So far it's gone like this:

1) Blue (stenciled)
2) Violet (stenciled)
3) Transparent yellow (no photo)
4) Deeper yellow (still no photo)

5) Green-to-ochre blend (above)

6) Deeper ochre on only the lower half (lousy photo).

This edition is being printed on the "natural" color Awagami Kozo, and I'm trying to maintain only moderate pressure on the baren as I print each color. This means the texture of the paper is a little more pronounced, but I'm hoping it also means the colors will remain more luminous. Fingers crossed. Well, not really. It's too difficult to carve and print that way.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Linotype: the film

Sometimes you just need a little film about "obsolete" printing technology to get your day off to a great start.

"Linotype: The Film" Official Trailer from Linotype: The Film on Vimeo.

One more example of how I was born several decades too late. I did typesetting on another now-obsolete machine, but it wasn't nearly as fun as a Linotype.

So far the screening schedule for this film seems confined to the coasts. Seriously? That can't be right.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fieldwork Friday- no, Saturday: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Birds at the Rift Valley area. The kori bustard kept me giggling...
About once every five minutes it would pass my side of the
exhibit yard, usually at a run and ALWAYS with
the intention of tormenting all the egrets and guineafowl
who were trying desperately to mind their own business.

The DM had a gig in Manitou Springs last night and I decided I would tag along. It's (almost) always nice to hang out whilst David's playing music somewhere, and it's extra nice to see the friends we stay with when we travel, but I had an ulterior motive for a journey to the city. I wanted to go draw some critters at the zoo this morning.

The weather has been ridiculously fine for January, so I was a little worried that hordes of other folks would want to be at the zoo on a Saturday, too. (I almost NEVER go to such places on weekends, especially if I want to draw.) It was busy, but not horribly so, and I managed a few decent sketches. Mostly I had pages of drivel... starts and starts and starts that went nowhere, but it felt great to move a pencil around.

Boreal toads and a sleeping pot-bellied pig named "AL-ouicious".

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Well, THIS is better...

Happiness is a drying rack of new prints-in-progress.

We're still feeling a bit sub-par here in the Heart of the Rockies, but both the DM and I have gone enough stir crazy to send us back to our respective studios, coughing and sneezing be damned. David's working madly on a new CD, and I have finally started some new relief prints.

Last weekend I mounted two largeish blocks, one 12 x 18 and the other 12 x 16, for some ambitious linocuts. I'm still waiting on the arrival of new paper, however, so although I'm twitchy to get one of them underway I'm stalled for at least another week. And sorry... I debated posting a photo of the drawn-up 12 x 18 block but I've decided I'd rather have it be a surprise. You'll just have to wait.

In the meantime, I drew up a smaller block... revisiting an image I tried last year but didn't feel was successful. The first two colors didn't require any carving, so this morning I tore down paper and got to work. Both the blue and the tiny spot of violet were put down using stencils and went quickly. I'm printing on the "natural" color Awagami Kozo again. So far, so good.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Inauspicious beginnings

Soundtrack for the first week of 2012: Hack. Cough. Wheeze. Sneeze. Snerk.

I almost made it through all of 2011 without catching a cold. Really. Shortly after Christmas both the DM and I noted that we felt run down. Perhaps we were fighting something. We laid low and tried to stay on top of things but, alas, two days before the new year, I went down for the count. Several miserable days later I am much improved (although not 100%)... but guess who's flat out now?

So you can well imagine that I have no new prints started, nor any new photos of a winter wonderland. What I do have is less interesting but, for me, quite satisfiying.

These are file drawers. Tidy file drawers full of finished prints.

These are tidy paper drawers. Full of prints and drawings not yet made.

And these are tidy office files. With room to spare for all the wonderful things that will come this year.

The purge is not yet as far along as I would like since my end-of-year clearance was so rudely interrupted by a rogue virus, but it's well underway. I'm twitchy to get a new print started, but I think I have to give myself another day or two. In the meantime, now that my head is significantly less congested and/or medicated, I'm going to rifle through some sketchbooks and photos and think about what's up next.

Happy New Year, everyone! Better late than never!

Linocut in Progress: The Third Act

Time to wrap up this linocut ! And we are wrapping at warp speed (see what I did there?)... because there are deadlines. Exhibition deadline...