Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What can I say, I was mad.

I came across this in my paper portfolio; I did this literally as a one-day etching sketch (Etch-A-Sketch?) on July 8th, 2011 — the morning the last Shuttle Atlantis launched.

It's a 3"x5" plate with a deep, 25-minute open-bite etch around the figure. The lady is wearing a live chicken for a hat, as one does; a concept freely filched from astounding (and often hilarious) artist Omar Rayyan's earlier work. (I'm kicking myself for not buying one of the bird-hat paintings from him back at the WorldCon in 2001 when I had the chance, but I have two other original watercolors of his now that I treasure that I bought from him at IlluxCon '09.)

This plate has only a total of four hours into it and was drawn directly into the ground with no preliminary sketch or transfer, mostly using the point of a curved, steel burnishing tool. Who says I can't work fast when I want to...?

The lettering behind her is my angry rant about the sloppy end of the manned American space program I grew up with near Cape Canaveral (I was born a few months before Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 flight), at least as we know it now. It doesn't matter what the text says; it's written directly into the ground, so it's backwards and kind of stream-of-consciousness-ranty and contains various cuss words. Looks agreeably important & mysterious, though, dunnit? ;-)

I kind of like this weird little print to commemorate that morning. Strange day, indeed.

Current linocut color comp

I'm still carving the final block here; my original intention was to have this ready to debut at the Palm Harbor art show this weekend, but I decided not to rush the last few stages. I know it's taking forever, but I'm attempting to do something here with water, refraction and transparency, using five blocks and eight colors I've never attempted before. Plus: this is the stage where I usually do something really stupid, like carving out a section on a block that shouldn't be carved out.

Hence: the Photoshop color comp. If Gustave Baumann had had Photoshop (and was under 60 at the time...), he woulda used it instead of doing a whole gouache painting to organize his process. Not that doing a gouache painting as a preliminary organizational comp isn't extremely cool and something I plan on doing myself...

The black you see in the image is a scan of the actual black keyblock, though not the final carving. Other color added in Photoshop. Each of the five layers has one to two ink colors that aren't touching and are separated enough that they can be inked w/ a small 1.5" brayer, if necessary. The light lavender layer is actually transparent, and reflects that I'll be using a lot of ink base extender to get that kind of transparency on the block. The dark green layers under the boat will be rolled and brushed out to get that gradation for each print.

Yah, this is kind of nuts.

Original image credit: © Michael Jones 2011, photographer.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Somewhere in this mess is a very fast, 2" (baby) Huntsman spider. Guess I'll, uh, go read or something instead.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

State #2: progress is being made. But not fast enough!

I pulled the first proof — State 1 — of "Cooper on the Bow" on Tuesday. Today, I pulled State #2. There's about an hour or so of carving and clean-up between the two states; still not ready to finalize the key block yet. Probably tomorrow, and I can print the key block, in register, on the other four remaining blocks.

The lines you see on the water won't show on the final print; they're to mark areas of color on the other blocks and will eventually be removed from this block — the "key" block. The key block is so called because it's always the outline or image-defining block, printed in the darkest color at the very last step. All of the other blocks of colored ink areas are printed in-register with this one, the master block.

By the way, the inspiration and wonderful photo this is based on was taken by fellow sailing enthusiast Michael Jones; the dog is his Welsh Terrier, Cooper. Michael and his wife Judith will be getting either the first print or my last, best artist proof with my thanks for letting me use such a great image. It practically sat up and begged to have a print made of it!

State #1 is on the left; today's proof on right. Both proofs are on mulberry paper using Gamblin Portland Intense Black oil-based ink, rubbed w/ a baren and a wooden spoon and hand-pulled. I'll pull one on the press using Rives BFK paper to make a final check before committing the key block.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I am Holly, Lord of the Idiots.


I spent a couple of hours Monday night and Tuesday morning transferring a pencil drawing to a linoleum block — AND! — I began to ink it. And you know what? I forgot to flip the tracing paper before the transfer because *derp!!* a print matrix is always in reverse. I knew that. Dammit.

So, I then spent more time yesterday transferring the drawing — correct side up — to a fresh block. Took almost two hours. Only to lift up the tracing paper and the sheet of Saral graphite tracing paper underneath it to see... NOTHING! Dammit. I had the Saral paper facing the wrong side; not a single graphite mark transferred to the linoleum.

See title of the blog entry: I had nothing on George Costanza in that moment yesterday. So, I counted to ten, walked around a bit. Pet the dogs. Did some laundry. Got some tea. Sat down and traced it... again.

On the plus side: since I've now redrawn it twice, I now have two further refinements to the original sketch with thicker, more dynamic lines and a simplified approach that's really superior to what I started with. On the downside, my brain hurts. That is all.
The block in front is the correct and final transfer. The partially-inked block way above it is facing the wrong way. Note all the extra sketches... Anyway, this will be a 4-block, at least five color linoleum block print. The keyblock I'm doing now will be the hardest to carve, with the lightest color also containing a lot of the highlighted waves in the same pale color as the sky. This will be my most ambitious project yet because I've set up a real challenge for myself in handling the color layers more like one of the California school, early 20th c. Japanese woodblock method artists. I'll be doing more transparent layers of ink extender with the oil based inks to get an over-printed, highlighted effect.

I hope... Needs to be done by Nov. 5th. Zoiks!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cedar Key Small Boat Meet shirt

First full weekend in May, the Cedar Key Small Boat Meet is really fun. It's a large gathering of owners and/or builders of traditional small craft of all kinds. Island Place in Cedar Key on the waterfront is the informal HQ for the event, though everyone's scattered all over town at campgrounds, cottages, condos and at anchor. I rented a 2nd floor gulf-front condo at IP and brought Mom up for a fab Mother's Day getaway weekend. We had a sweeping view of all the fun that weekend. I towed my 13'8" Melonseed skiff, "Goshawk" up behind the Element with us. My sore throat & cold, imported from Pittsburg via Bob's earlier Southwest Airlines flight, (yay...) kept me off the water for one whole excruciating day, but Saturday with all the other "Melonheads" out there was a blast.

The t-shirt design based on my linoleum block print, "Cedar Key Afternoon" was a big hit! I sold out and then sold a reprint order right after that. The reprints were mailed out and all of those shirts should be in everyone's hands by last week.

Here it is, four colors screen printed on 100% cotton Gildan "Texas Orange" shirts (more like a lovely russett color), very nicely printed by Logo Pro in Dunedin, FL.:

"ManannĂ¡n mac Lir's Midsummer Ride" - digital drawing

This was a recent commission for a b&w quarterly publication illustration. I'd originally wanted to do a graphite drawing but became pressed for time due to the Tarpon Springs show, the Roycroft jury deadline and assorted things all happening around the beginning of March. Madness, I tell you...

I had to resort to flipping this back and forth between Photoshop and Corel Painter, using various grayscale charcoal and graphite brushes. (Mostly in Painter.) Then again, I was curious to try doing this as an actual drawing, as in building my values up from light to dark in layers with strokes of the stylus, as opposed to continuous-tone digital painting. So, I drew & erased with my Intuous 3 Wacom tablet stylus just like using a pencil. (Brushes: Painter's Grainy Cover Pencil, Real 2B and Real 6B pencils.) I mostly used white "chalk" for highlights, but I confess to a little cheater dodge & burn highlighting here and there. That often happens at 2am.

As always, however, it starts with a genuine, honest-to-goodness pencil drawing. (Or should, anyway...) I almost always use a good quality, heavy tracing vellum that I can tape and trace over, refining my sketch as it goes. I always work at least 125-150% of final, printed size. The final version was scanned in at 300 dpi and I saved a clean Photoshop master copy that I could always go back to, if needed. (And I did. Always have a safety net...)

I used layers to separate the foreground art from the background graphics (like the circle, which was built as an ellipse w/ a Triskele embossed fill). But mostly I draw directly into my sketch background, covering and erasing just as if I were using a real piece of illustration board.

The final scanned sketch:
The final 300 dpi grayscale art file, as sent to print, approx. 6" x 10".

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Sandhill Crane (With East Palatka Holly)"

This is one of the final states of "Sandhill Crane", but the last one before I was able to buff out most of the blotchy plate tone on the copper with fine steel wool. I have no idea where the blotchiness came from; it appeared on the plate after I etched it. I won't allow any of my plates to contact the plastic in the padded envelopes I use to store them now; usually I wrap them in newsprint first to store. I used this last artist proof to experiment with a watercolor tinting and this is how it came out.

"Sandhill" is printing nice and clean now; my best one went up to the annual Roycroft Artisan At Large jury up in NY and the other one (nearly indistinguishable) is going into a frame for the Tarpon Springs art show next week, as is this one.

6"x9"; Graphic Chemical bone-black ink on white Rives B.F.K.

Remember "Remember!"?

I revisited this little etching from last year. This was a quick, sketch directly on the hard ground with a stylus; I did a little pencil thumbnail reference first that I looked at but didn't want to spend a lot of time on it. I haven't been entirely happy with it; I added heavier lines after the first etching and they're kind of clumsy. I miss the first, wispy sort of look to the sketch.

So, I wanted to add it to my art show inventory coming up and I experimented with adding watercolor to one that had a more sepia tone overall.

I did a little bit of burnishing on some of the heavy lines around her face to soften them. I also steel-wooled the whole plate with a little 3-in-1 oil to take off any extra plate tone still hanging around. It printed much cleaner than the last time I tried. I kind of like the watercolor tint but don't have time to do another one until after the Tarpon Springs show on the 2nd-3rd.

These are small: 2.75" x 2.75". Since we get one of these little plates at the beginning of each session of printmaking at DFAC, I think I have enough to do a Tarot deck at this point or something...

Graphic Chemical umber ink on Rives B.F.K.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Final "Ensigns". Finally.

The final state of my 9"x12" linoleum relief print, "Ensigns off Dunedin", finished last month. Made me crazy; learned a lot.

Three blocks, seven colors in oil-based Graphic Chemical and Gamblin inks on white Rives B.F.K. I currently have #1 hanging in the Dunedin Fine Arts Center S+M 2011 member, faculty and student show. This will be one of four new pieces I'll be submitting to this year's Roycroft Artisan-At-Large jury at the end of the month.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hestia update.

Here's the next-to-last state (12!) of Hestia, the small mezzotint that's been giving me trouble. Really, I just wasn't aggressive enough with it, only due to the fact that it's a face and I'm just being a wussy about really scraping and burnishing down. I got over it. Finally, made great strides in the last two states. Will probably fiddle with one or two more areas and print several of these. (Small edition; probably not more than ten.) With this one, my second mezzo, I'm feeling a lot more confident about the process.