Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ahoy! A proof to port!

My ongoing, ball & chain five-color, 3-block print project, "Ensigns off Dunedin" has a first-state at last! I only have about a bazillion hours of carving on it, but I am enjoying all the audio books.

I mixed up five random blues & greens on Tuesday to get an idea of where I am in this. More carving/tweaking to do. I also discovered I needlessly spent, oh, four hours carving a complete duplicate of an area on two blocks. D'oh...

This is not in any way the final color palette, and it's hurriedly inked and printed on the DFAC press. But on a warmish sheet of Arches Lightweight, it's kind of nice. I love it when I stop hating on a project and start getting excited about it again.

On to the finish.

Approx. 9" x 12"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Teeny, tiny mezzotint update: still annoying.

I have HOURS into this thing and here's state #10:


Why, yes. I know. It IS very dark and you can't see much. I keep scraping and burnishing and and everytime I proof, I can't tell if I've done anything.

Basically, I have to stop being such a wussie, go for broke and burnish the crap out of this... Wish me luck. Maybe I won't end up adding an extra nostril by mistake... Faces are hard enough — with an eraser.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New, teeny-tiny mezzotint gives me a big headache.

I started this one, "Hestia" last week. I have yet to proof it for the first time. I thought I'd get out to the studio this evening but just kept drawing on it instead. I'll pull a proof first thing tomorrow morning at DFAC's temporary printing studio at the new "Cottage Campus" while the main building is being expanded.

I wanted to try something figurative for my 2nd mezzo and needed a reliable model for values. The inspiration for this is a little ceramic mask I've had on my home studio wall for years; I've pulled it down to practice sketching faces from time to time. I created a small drawing first, seen here, but it wasn't very useful for laying out the drawing directly. I can trace off a tiny amount of white colored pencil on top of the copper using thin vellum but it's extremely faint as I can't burnish the transfer too hard. All I can do with the white pencil is establish basic boundaries and try to add white highlights afterward by referring to the sketch and the mask. I then came in with the thin Sharpie to delineate black lines and dark areas that will remain 100% black.

Mezzotints start as a completely scuffed copper plate that prints as a solid, velvety black when it's first inked & printed. You then scrape and burnish light areas all the way to a solid white, which will then look like shiny, polished copper on the plate. It's hard to see what I'm doing and I have to have a worklight angled *just so* to see anything on the copper plate. My process is to work from light to dark —  just like drawing with white chalk on a black piece of paper. But just to make it extra fun, I'm working backwards since it's a print matrix.

It's a tiny piece — 2.25" x 4" — but a huge challenge.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"Ensigns off Dunedin"; block in progress

One of my new projects, though I actually started this one back in April. I came back to it off and on during the summer, but finishing it off now. Touch ups on the keyblock for a five color relief print (using three blocks). Once I tidy this up I'll register it on the press and print it onto the other two blocks and carve them out — should go pretty quick.

I'm actually right-handed but use one of my winter sailing gloves to keep from stabbing myself silly with the gouges. It works... most of the time. Seeing as how I burned one arm taking cookies out of the oven this evening and getting bit by a spider (for reals) on the other later, I might as well go for the trifecta.

On second thought: better quit for the night while I'm ahead.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Stork Dream"

A small etching + aquatint I worked on two weeks ago. This began as a direct sketch - no preliminary drawing or transfer - onto the hard ground. The first etch came out a little light at 15 minutes for some reason. I went back over the lines and dropped it back in the tank for another 25 minutes and was much happier with the deeper line. For the next project (which will have much more preliminary design work), the outer lines are going to go in for about 40 minutes to get a nice, stronger black line to contrast with the rest of the drawing.

5"x7". Probably the final state for this little dude before I pull a few prints on Rives BFK cream w/ umber ink.

First mezzotint!

I'm really happy with the way this is going. Mezzotints are a subtractive process; you start out with a piece of copper that's been evenly textured or "rocked" by a weighted, toothed comb. This can be done either by hand or by mechanical means. The textured area prints a gorgeous, velvety black that can't be achieved by any other means in etching or aquatint. You build the mezzo image by flattening the copper texture down again with exacto knives; burnishers; knitting needles - anything that works. The lightest areas (whites) are returned to shiny, mirror-burnished metal. The lovely thing about it is that it creates a tonal range and texture very similar to drawing with graphite, my first love in art.

For my first attempt, I bought a very small (2 1/4" x 3 3/4"), pre-rocked plate from Graphic Chemical. ($28. and that was before copper took a big hike in price per pound this year!) Well worth it though; I discovered I love the medium and it'll now be worth the time to hand-rock my own plates. (My knitting pals knit obsessively while chatting and watching TV; I guess I'll be the weirdo with a wrist brace and a 100 l/s rocker with my little copper plate at Starbucks or something. Anyway...)

I have a beautiful, large acorn dropped from an enormous white oak on my Lake Erie property. I stuck it with a needle and mounted it on a piece of cork and proceeded to draw directly onto the copper with a knife, after first laying down some basic lines in white Prismacolor. The lettering had to be hand-drawn from a reversed laserprint; there's really no way to accurately trace anything onto the burr and have it be visible enough to be accurate. So my text, "sleep" is a little wonky.

I've posted state #3 — where the image is just starting to emerge and I'm just beginning to get a feel for the tools. And the last is state #6, pulled last Friday. I'll be ready for another state this Friday morning and have burnished extensively since the last. Proofing the states at regular intervals is essential; it's never as light as I think it is and it's much harder to screw up a value than I thought. In fact, it's a LOT like a pencil drawing. And a great advantage of a mezzo is: no chemicals; no rosin! No sprays; no solvents. Just you, the copper and some tools. Direct, clean transfer of mind to metal. Very cool!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good dog!!

It's taken me weeks of off-and-on carving, but my little lino cut of Jett, our Aussie is about done. A few touch ups; I'll be doing a few hand-tinted and block-printed t-shirts and a short run of prints of this. It'll be one of the first projects on my very own press but for now, I need to lighten up her "beard" so that it recedes quite a bit more and some clean-up on the text.

My photo reference of Jett plus type (True Golden, an Arts & Crafts period font), composited in Photoshop:

New "etch-a-sketch"

From last Friday. I'm sort of calling it that because this is another midnight sketch when I just can't commit to a final, formal drawing. I had some stork reference in front of me but I drew directly onto the hard-ground with no preliminary drawing or transfer, except for the text. (I can't sketch an impromptu mirror-image of lettering.)

Took a bit over an hour to draw; 15-minute dunk in the tank. Should have gone another minute, maybe. This is the second state with no alterations other than quite a bit more plate tone came off and it was a better wipe than the first. Paper is Arches (Rives?) lightweight for proofing. I need to fix the eyes, but don't plan much more. On to bigger etching projects.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The new print studio is finished!

Yay!! Finally! Busy today getting hardware, mineral spirits, sawdust for cleaning plates & blocks, etc. today. All the boring but necessary stuff. Am moving the art supplies in, bit-by-bit over the weekend. I need to get my iPod boombox in there too for some music and audio books while scribing, carving and printing. Absolutely out of range of wifi, cell phone and other distractions, and that's just how I want it.

I have a vertical tank that you can see on the floor next to the sink, but I'll be concentrating on block printing in there at first before I bring in the ferric chloride. I'll be able to mix colors & print multiple blocks with no time constraints. (Come to think of it, I need to get a sheet of birch plywood and make a chase. *Puts it on my list*.) By the time the art center shuts down its printmaking program for the summer in May, I'll be up and running to prepare plates for etching so I won't have the usual three months of down time anymore.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thinking about gouache and egg tempera again.

I did the piece below in a DFAC egg-tempera workshop two years ago taught by Gainor E. Roberts. (An excellent instructor, by the way.) Thinking of doing some more opaque watercolor along those lines with acrylic underneath and colored pencil on top. I'd like to have something ready for CPSA's "Explore This!" online show next fall. (This painting is 3.5" x 5.5" on a gessoed panel.)

But I do miss those gorgeous ground pigments in doing traditional egg tempera on panel; might have to find some pigments and do some tiny ones for next year's Miniature Art Society of Florida's annual international show here in the Tampa Bay Area.

As long as I'm losing my mind and my sight noodling around on the eXtreme! close work of copper plate etching, go all out, eh? ;-)

Besides, I already have to wear the nerd, lighted magnification head-set and I'm not even 50 yet. In for a penny, in for a pound, I say...


On Monday, I packed off the show application for the Roycrofter's June summer show in East Aurora, NY along with my application for Roycroft artisan status. Fingers crossed for this year; I have enough Arts & Crafts-style stuff, or near enough, to qualify. I hope...

Working on two more copper plates today; "Good Dog!", my new linocut is nearly carved and ready for proofing on Tuesday.

I've been inventorying all of my prints, trying to see if I have anything close to an edition of 25 in most, and when all is said and done and I've excluded the ones with dings and inconsistent color & wipes, I honestly don't. Yet. But I'm getting there.

I'll be picking up some 1/8" fomecore and archival plastic bags tomorrow to start bagging the smaller Steampunk-ish etchings ("Laser-Guided Snook", "Steamed Grouper" and "Aviatrix") to open my new Etsy shop. Links to come soon.

I've also just put in a large order at Graphic Chemical for a vertical tank for the ferric chloride, along with various additives like burnt plate oil, tint extender, etc. Unfortunately, I need to wait for the print catalog to arrive to make some informed decisions about ordering oil-based relief inks. I have the basics in black and umber (there are some five different blacks to choose from in etching and relief inks...) but have been relying on whatever's been kicking around DFAC's printmaking dept. But with most of my studio furniture in place, plus the sink and print rack, I'm nearly there for my print studio's status changed to up-and-running.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sketch for today.

Tiny forest creature. Scanned pencil sketch; color in Photoshop; about an hour. I finally caught my husband's cold and sore throat today, so not much happened in the way of carving on the new "good dog!" block print.  Just noodling around in the sketchbook, reading, and generally feeling unproductive.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New, small plate.

 I'm having trouble nailing down the final sketch for another 6"x9" copper plate, so I made myself just sketch directly into the ground on a prepared 3"x5" for an hour or so. No preliminary pencil drawing or plan; just grab the stylus and draw. The result is this little plate below I call "Remember!"

Unfortunately, her left hand is totally and completely WRONG. Gah!! And not just a tiny bit; that's what I get for trying to draw mirror-imaged when I already can't draw hands to save my life without some sort of model or reference. Then, in an object lesson on going too far, I heavied up some of the other lines too much after trying to correct the hand problem — which didn't work to pull her away from the background. Result: State #1 was a more satisfying and delicate sketch than State #2. Now, I'll need to do further burnishing on the hand to fix it and knock back the heavier lines I added to her waist and chest and in her hair. I'll have it ready to put it back in the etching tank for Friday morning; I won't spend a lot more time on this, but if I can salvage it, I will.

State #1, February 12th, right out of the tank. (These are both fairly rushed wipes, to finish by the end of the print session; I can see all the thumbprints and rough edges.

State #2, an half-hour later; after going too far, and yet — not far enough:

Fortunately, one of the beautiful things about working with copper, as opposed to plexi, zinc and other etching materials, is that it's so malleable and forgiving. Another thing though: scans of etchings on heavy paper look FAR more wavy than they do in a photo or just sitting on a table. The glass bed of the scanner tends to highlight the raised areas of the emboss and make the overall color less even and blotchy. Shows every flaw in the wipe-off. I place books and other heavy objects to try to flatten the prints down, to no avail.