Monday, May 29, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Believe it or not

When we last left our printmaker, she was distracted from printmaking by an illustration project. It happens.

But I'm happy to report the illustration project is finished and there's been a little progress on the new linocut in the Underfoot series.

The previous post was all about masking, a time-consuming technique I employ from time to time. This post demonstrates how using the masking technique usually convinces me to keep my next few steps simple and straightforward.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 5. 

It's a little hard to believe that this is already Step 5, but it is! The color passes so far have been 1) very pale transparent beige, 2) light transparent yellow, 3) slightly darker transparent yellow, 4) red printed via masking method, and 5) this yummy yellow-green. (Also very transparent.)

The next step involved a good deal of carving and then the application of a blended ink roll, blue to green, top to bottom. The top ink of the blend was a mixture of straight cobalt and phthalo blues in a good-sized blob of transparent base, so the printed color still reads as green... just a cooler temperature.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 6.

So far, so good. Unfortunately things are about to get really protracted in the development of this image because I am on the verge of my annual migration to the east coast. I might get one more color pass on here before I go, but even if I do I'm afraid we'll be waiting until August for the conclusion.

But no worries, I shall endeavor to keep us all occupied with other print-related amusements and intrigue. Take, for example, this wonderful video about The British Museum's efforts to conserve Albrecht Dürer's "Triumphal Arch," one of the largest relief prints ever created. (About 3 x 4 meters.) And you thought printmakers were obsessive... take a look at what the print conservator's job entails:

The British Museum also has an exhibition of Hokusai prints on now through August. (Why oh why am I not headed to London? Maine is at least halfway there from here, isn't it?) The clever staff have created another intriguing video to promote the exhibit, check out this beautiful animation of some of Hokusai's work.

Will my next blog post be uploaded from Colorado or Maine? Stay tuned to find out.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Masking unmasked

Ah, May. The month of preparing for east coast adventures and the time of year when the to-do list gets longer instead of shorter each day closer to departure.

Today I choose to be amused by the dance I'm trying to master, the one that swoops semi-gracefully from illustration project to framing to gallery delivery trips to workshop prep to packing (or at least piling up stuff in the corner)... and once in a while to the studio.

There's a fair bit of improvising involved in this particular cha cha. Yesterday I was to make the journey to deliver work to Ann Korologos Gallery in Basalt, but was thwarted by snow over much of the state– particularly on the high mountain passes I am obliged to cross to get from this side of the Continental Divide to that side.

So instead I made a cuppa and shuffled to the studio in my slippers and got to work.

The morning's task was straightforward: A nice, somewhat darker yellow over the entire block:

Step 3 printed (embiggenable with a click)

Of course there's no chance that things will ever stay straightforward when I'm lino-ing. From this point my next step should either be a light green most everywhere OR a deep red in many small areas.

I want both the green and the red to be "pristine," clear hues, but printing either one over the other will certainly muddy things up. It's that whole complementary color issue, in which colors opposite each other on the color wheel (i.e. red and green) will gray each other out. I could resort to using very opaque inks, but they would still be influenced by the already-printed yellow and they'd wreak havoc with subsequent color passes. And besides, I want my colors to stay luminous, not flat and chalky.

This is one of those times when cutting a separate block for each each color pass might be more efficient than reduction printing, but reduction's what I do, so....

It's clear that masking is required... and whether I cut one mask to cover the green or many small masks to cover the red I am in for a tedious few hours. But, hey. It's not like I'm going anywhere today.

Shapes traced onto mylar sheet

Masking, Step 1: I placed a clear mylar (acetate) sheet over the lino block and traced all the little areas where I want red. See what I mean about tedious? No matter how I approach this mask I will still have to cut out all these little bits. Multiple times. Not my favorite thing, but it's no one's fault but my own. Xacto knife, here I come.

Homemade confetti, anyone?

Masking, Step 2: Once I cut all the little shapes out of the mylar sheet I used it as a template to trace those shapes back on to newsprint. And then... (wait for it).... I cut out the shapes AGAIN. Fortunately I could clip a couple of sheets of newsprint together to cut more than one mask at a time. But let me tell you, I was heartily sick of these things by the time I finished.

Spot-inked block

Masking, Step 3: Inking. Finally. Because I'd be using the mask I could do some rather sloppy spot-inking, and I was very happy to be sloppy at this point.

Mask in place over inked block

Masking, Step 4: I put the block in place on the press and positioned the newsprint mask on top of it. Each print-in-progress is then placed image-side-down over this whole conflagration and printed.

Mask "stuck" to print, but only slightly

Masking, Step 5: Because the previously-printed yellow ink was damp, the newsprint mask stuck to the print each time. It wasn't a problem because the yellow ink was thinly applied and didn't "grab" the mask very much. A little yellow was "stripped" from the prints when I peeled off the masks, but not enough to matter. The best thing I can think of to describe the level of "stuckness" is like static electricity... if that makes sense.

Color pass 4 completed. (Embiggenable with a click)

Here's the print once I peeled away the mask. Masking can be very tedious, but in the long run it's worth the effort. Of course now I have to cut all those little shapes AGAIN, this time from the block itself, but it shouldn't take too long and the next color pass should be a satisfying overall green. At least that's the plan at the moment!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Print Day in May

Since 2007, Monterey Peninsula College Printmakers (MPC) have devoted the first Saturday in May to fine art printmaking. Ten years later, what began as a local event in the greater Monterey Bay Area of California has become a worldwide celebration of printmaking. 

Yesterday (May 6) was this year's Print Day in May. Artists from 45 US states and 46 countries rolled out some ink and made prints wherever they were: home, studio, school or on the road. 

Since art-making (for me) is a generally solitary endeavor, it's nice to have a virtual printmaking atelier at least once a year. I didn't get much done that was exciting, but here's the quick rundown:

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 1 rollup

It's time to add another piece to the Underfoot series! After all the larger 18" x 18" squares I've been working on recently, this 12" x12" seems totally reasonable.

In addition to printing, I messed around with shooting some video with my phone/camera. This rollup image is a screen shot. Seems like I got the camera in the right place, eh?

The big reveal of Step 1

Aaaaaaaannnnnd... the big first step reveal was completely anti-climactic, since it was just a very pale transparent ochre. Just enough to tone down the white of the paper.

Step 1 printed

Move along. Nothing to see here.

Step 2 was much more fun. I took the remains of that transparent ochre and threw some nice yellow into it. Oooh... daffodil-ish!

Another dramatic reveal.... (Can you tell I worked into the evening? Natural light in the studio is now... not so natural.)

Step 2 reveal

There's still not a lot to show for the work, but I've been focusing on an illustration project lately and it's been several weeks since I've had something other than single-color prints drying in the rack. My world just seems better when the rack is full. 

I still have much work to do on the illustration commission, so it will be a bit of a dance in the studio to try to keep both things going simultaneously. Let's see how well I can keep up!

Step 2 printed

Monday, May 1, 2017

Field Sketching 101 with the Central Colorado Conservancy

Pretty much anything can happen with the weather in a Rocky Mountain spring. Twice last week I found myself making long drives in bad weather: wet, sloppy snow that thankfully didn't pile up much on the roads but which compromised visibility and gave me splitting headaches.

But I remain convinced that sparkling days are just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate outdoor adventures than with a field sketching workshop?

I've teamed up with the Central Colorado Conservancy to offer a half-day Field Sketching 101 class at the Boxcar Ranch in Chaffee County on Saturday, May 13. If you're in the area and interested in learning new skills or dusting off some old ones, I encourage you to grab a sketchbook and join us.

Registration can be made through the Conservancy, more information is available at the Central Colorado Conservancy website.

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...