Friday, September 23, 2016

Linocut in Progress: Slowly


Chip, chip, chip... little tiny pieces of lino everywhere. And then... an unplanned delay. Too many days of intense carving plus a 350-mile day of driving combined to create one of the most frustrating conditions for someone whose every interest involves looking up, down, and to the side.

Neck spasm! The worst of it is that I was trying to avoid this problem by stretching when it happened. Nothing to do for it except lay around with alternating hot and cold compresses and grumble a lot. Today it's still tight and painful, but I can hold my head upright and look at least a little bit to the left, so I'm trying to get a few things done with lots of breaks in between.

The good news is that being forced away from the carving table allowed me to decide which pieces I'm going to try to complete before the December exhibition deadline. The bad news is that the amount of work required will cause continued strain on my neck and shoulders. But I guess the other good news is that I've had my "you are not invincible" reminder NOW instead of, say, the first of November when the pressure will really grow. Printmaking pun not intended.

Printmakers and all whose work requires controlled, repetitive motion... take a break RIGHT NOW. I know I'm going to. And then I'll get back to work. Slowly.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Linocut in Progress: An autumnal endeavor

Things ramped up considerably in the studio this past week. Multiple deadlines loom and once again I'm hearing the relentless drum beat. Gotta get it done, gotta get it done, gotta get it done.

It's not my favorite way to work, let me tell you. But it seems to happen with annoying regularity. Every few months, in fact. There are a raft of exhibition deadlines in April, and now... A stack for November.

No time to waste, so as a reminder, here's Step 1:


As I began this new linocut I remembered a promise I made to myself:  No more blended rolls on the first pass, especially on a piece that is 18" x 18." Clearly I am completely untrustworthy, since I broke that promise and did it anyway.

It was with Step 2 that technical problems appeared.


A couple of things are happening here to create uneven ink coverage. The first issue was the use of a too-small roller. I used an 8" instead of 18," because I was feeling lazy about clean up.  It's just one solid color, won't be a problem, right? 

Um, wrong. I found it really difficult to get ink evenly on the block with a too-small roller. And...

I've been struggling to get ol' Presston to set even pressure on larger pieces. I zeroed out, and zeroed out again, and still there were problems. The dark line down the middle of this print is caused by a single sheet of newsprint, placed under one side of the block in an attempt to even out the pressure. Seriously. That's how much difference one newsprint-thickness of pressure can make. 

I pulled up the collar of the adjustment dial and jammed a screwdriver into my thumb trying to get it back in place. Panic mounted as I hunted for a bandage and considered whether I would have to print all these deadline-driven pieces by hand. But finally, somehow, I got it all settled. 

Step 3. Another solid color, but this time I got out the big roller. No problems with ink coverage, and the pressure problems have been solved. You can still see the newsprint mark in this particular print, but it's less pronounced and it's going to be covered soon anyway.


And then the fun started. By fun I mean tedium. I spent large portions of three days chipping tiny chunks out of a large area of the block. Chip, chip, chip, chip through several documentaries about 1960s sitcoms, and the 50-year history of Star Trek, and the making of Star Wars. Oh, and a bunch of old Dean Martin shows. Honestly. It's all on YouTube, which is important, since I haven't had a television for several years.


Saturday night I pronounced myself ready for the next color pass and Sunday morning I mixed up two lovely colors: a sort of minty green and a pale yellow ochre. And by lovely I mean kind of questionable. The ochre will be dry grasses, the green is for aspen leaves that haven't yet turned yellow. The blended roll helps make a smooth transition between background and foreground.



And see? The green doesn't look nearly so obnoxious with the yellows under it.

Time out now for thinking... How much of this light green will remain? How will I start to approach the grasses? And what time is lunch?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Something for the "Yay Jar"

The "Yay Jar," celebration reminders for year's end.

As always, the Birds in Art opening weekend at the Woodson Art Museum was filled with great art, good friends and colleagues, and way too little sleep. (When I finally made it home and in to bed I slept 13.5 hours!)

There's always a little let-down when the magic is over and it's time to face the reality of deadlines and paperwork (and studio time, of course). But if I'm lucky I might get another bit of news to celebrate in the week following the opening. This year I did, in fact, get two: "It's April, No Foolin'" was selected for the 2016-17 national tour and a private collector will purchase it.

Things for the Yay Jar, absolutely. You don't know what a Yay Jar is? Here's mine... a former pasta sauce container repurposed as a place to collect happy news and milestones throughout the year.

 In December when I'm planning for the upcoming year it's all too easy to dwell on the things I didn't get done. So... I empty the Yay Jar, read its contents, and remind myself that I did manage accomplish a thing or two in the previous 12 months. (It seems like I got off to a good start this year, as there's something peeking out that's marked January 1. I don't remember what it was.)

Obligatory artist-standing-next-to-their-work photo from Birds in Art

Another bit of fun while I was in Wisconsin was the discovery that my piece is playing a part in the museum's Art Park interactive area for children and families. A half dozen pieces from the show were replicated as relief blocks (how appropriate!) from which kids can make rubbings and then color their own masterpieces.

A familiar little owl at the rubbing station in Art Park

Of course it's a good thing that I got those 13+ hours of sleep at the beginning of the week, because since my return I've been up to my elbows in lino crumbs and ink. I've got three colors down on a new large-ish (18 x 18 inches) linocut, but at the moment all I can show you is the first stage. After that last snow scene I had to psych myself up to print blue again, but thankfully this is the only blue pass for this piece. Stay tuned!

What's it gonna be? Step 1 of a new reduction linocut

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Birds in Art 2016

Ahhh... the best time of year is upon us! No, I'm not talking about cooler days, autumn color, or unending zucchini harvest. It's time for Birds in Art!

This coming weekend I'll be traveling to Wisconsin for the opening of the 41st Birds in Art exhibition at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.  Great art, great venue, great friends, great staff!

The weather forecast, however, seems a bit... damp. That's okay, my grumpy little owl will be perfectly happy to be part of this amazing exhibition, which runs September 10 - November 27. ("At least it's not snowing," says he.)

If you're in central Wisconsin this autumn, I encourage you to take the time to visit!

"It's April - No Foolin'" reduction linocut, 18" x 12"

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Linocut in Progress: Race to the finish, and the winner is....

Me? Maybe.

After a couple of days of headaches I made two important decisions. The first was to let everything sit an extra day (for mental health as well as drying reasons), and the second (after the wait) was to not do any more stripping and see what happened.

The next color was a straight-up green. Pthalo green mixed with yellow ochre. No transparent base, no white, no modifiers. Just ink. (From the stash of no-longer-manufactured Daniel Smith inks.)

Snow scene reduction linocut, Step 12

Yeah. Perfect roll out, perfect coverage, nice and thin, no problems. Have I mentioned how annoyed I am with Daniel Smith for discontinuing their ink?

Now a second green made by adding burnt sienna and more yellow ochre to the previous green.

Snow scene reduction linocut, Step 13

Okay, good! Some of the variations in the blues seen to be washing out a bit visually, but not much to be done about that. The subtleties are still important. (Plus digital camera struggles with blues.)

Next, adding more sienna to make a rich olive brown. On the paper it looks mostly brown, but okay.

Snow scene reduction linocut, Step 14

Nearly there now. One more color to go, and a fine example of why it's called reduction printing. Take a look at the block:

Final stage of reduction block

Just a few more darkest darks and then, Whew! It's done. The darkest bits are so small here that in the photo you can't really tell they're there. But... trust me.


Finished in time for today's deadline. Of course you can guess what happened last night. That deadline? It was postponed another two weeks.

Guess I have time to get another one started! With no white ink. None. Nope. Uh uh. Not. One. Drop. At least I hope not!