Friday, February 17, 2017

Back to the Ghost Town

The Red Barn (Part I)

Once upon a time (2008) I went to Rhyolite, a most fascinating Nevada ghost town. My quest was to complete a residency kindly offered by the Goldwell Open Air Museum. The setting was the Red Barn, a spacious studio set amid silence and ghosts in the town of Rhyolite, just East of Beatty Nevada, home to the Museum.

Orienting myself with a compass
I built with native rock at basecamp

Sanding my precious cherry blocks (en plein air)
by the Red Barn
Every day I would set off in one cardinal direction, sketching along the way directly on one of 20 little blocks. I would walk one, two, perhaps three miles off into the desert, mountains, washes and canyons and at the furthest point, look back to the amazing Red Barn.

A Simple Formula

My quest was to portray (in woodcuts of course!) the Red Barn as the Center of the Universe and so I ended up with four larger woodcuts (24x30 inches), four smaller (12x24 inches) and twenty tiny ones (4x6 inches). The larger four are views FROM the Red Barn looking out toward the four cardinal points, the smaller four are views OF the Red Barn, each from a natural "window" located at the four cardinal points. The tiny woodcuts recorded random observations along my walks. 
Sketching the South
old ice house by my shoulder

Inside the "studio" sketching larger blocks
from reference photos

The eight larger blocks

Tiny Observations

And so I have (finally, finally!) begun carving the smaller woodcuts. There is a narrative too; I wrote a diary of my musings as I walked and later in the perfect silence of the desert nights. Once I have all the woodcuts carved and prints printed, a book will come together...this year, I'm feeling it!

Here are some of the sketches, 5 East, 5 West, 5 North and 5 South, for a total of 20 4x6 inch blocks.
The West, looking toward some of the ghost town

The North and the mysterious open mines

An old post office, looking at the red barn through
the window

Two of the medium "windows" blocks 24" x 12"
Left Red Barn Viewed from the North
Right Red Barn Viewed from the East

Top Bank building in Rhyolite at dusk
Bottom View of Rhyolite from the South

More to come as wood chips fly.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wood Engraving for Fun and Profit...well, fun anyway!

Little works

My friends at the Wood Engraver's Network have been exchanging prints for as long as I can remember. Upon renewing my membership this year, I decided to contribute something, which I have not done in a while. I produced in the past a couple of Bundle newsletter covers (bundles are what the twice yearly exchanges are called) and I recently received a nice check from their traveling exhibit and sale of my contributions. All and all this is a neat group of humble and masterful printmakers and I am proud to be a member. 

For my non-artist friends, wood engravings are like woodcuts but done on much harder wood or other surface and "engraved" (rather than "carved") with metal engraving tools much like jewelers use to engrave metal. As a result of the tedious process, wood engravings tend to be much more detailed than woodcuts and the illusion of "shading" is often possible by using very fine lines.
"Out Early" engraving on end-grain maple, 5 x 7 inches (11 x 15.5 cm)
Detail of "Out Early" printed with copper/umber inks

Here is Datura, a new wood engraving of a poisonous plant that lives in the desert lands and produces spectacular and very large white flowers surrounded by deep green leaves. I engraved it in lemonwood (end-grain) purchased from Dab Hand Print on Ebay.
This tiny print is about 1.25 x 2 inches (3 x 4.5cm), barely! The glasses pictured have a magnification of +3.0.
First proofs done, a little tweaking and cleaning up is in order, then I begin printing.

Tiny Datura on my home-made leather bag,
traditionally used to hold engraving blocks in place.
The two tools pictured are a #3 angle tint and
a #1 spit-sticker from Ramelson

close up of almost done block

Another good thing about engravings...
the mess is so small!
I proof with home-made wooden door-knob tools

First proof

More proofing, need to do some clean up
but it's looking good

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Two New Works

Still of the Night

This is a pretty standard "wood" engraving, carved on Resingrave from McClain's Printmaking Supply Wood engravings in black and white are solely dependent on light in order to achieve a successful image. My own approach is to sketch with pencil first, then a thin permanent marker (Sharpie). Once I have all the shapes blocked in black marker, I proceed with the engraving. 
I use standard burins, gravers and such and on occasion take up a rotary tool with a very thin bit in order to achieve some random marks. Nearly all the disciplined line work done with a standard engraving tool, nearly all the squiggly stuff done with rotary tool.
I don't tend to proof when doing woodcuts but do use proofing when engraving. I also "ink" the block as I engrave with a thick marker and a very light touch to get an idea where the light and dark are going. I feel the light is very vibrant and always in motion and I think this engraving reflects that (ironically, despite the name: Still of the Night!).
The engraving depicts Omen, a stray cat who frequented our outside feeders for about 6 months. I learned her name, when, ironically again, Omen was struck down by a vehicle days after I finished the engraving.
Still of the Night
wood engraving, 3 x 6 inches

Old Cabin

About 3 years ago we purchased an old cabin built in 1972 that had been sitting unwanted for over 20 years. More than an old cabin, it has become a refuge, an ongoing project, a learning experience, a getaway, a delightful never ending occupation and ever present peaceful and quiet place. More irony, we said: "let's not get something that's a lot of work!"

The print is leading toward my new body of work as will be seen in a future post. This "guide" print is done with two cherry blocks. The key block carries all the information and the single color block is printed in two "rainbow" rolls, as shown in the ink slab picture. In this manner I can get all the color in one pass, in typical efficient-Maria-fashion.

I used hand-made banana bark paper, which was hand-torn rather than cut and printed damp. This poses a slight potential registration problem, so I run my fingernail along the registration guides to score the paper. The fibers of the paper have "memory" and retain the slight score, even as the paper was redampened for over printing the key block. Here is the process in images:

Print Title: Old Cabin
Paper Dimension: 7.5 x 10 inches
Image Dimension: 7 x 9 inches
Block: Cherrywood
Pigment or Ink: Charbonnel Aqua Wash
Paper: Banana bark handmade
Edition: 60

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Tempe Arts Festival one of my very favorite shows! December 2-4

Calendar Shock

December 2-4 Mill Avenue, Tempe Arizona
Look for me along Mill between 6th and 7th Streets, double booth #1355
Just looked at the calendar and realized I'm on the road in about two weeks! Oh my oh my, so much to do... Arts festivals require much preparation, inventory, mental fortitude, muscle and attitude. The more prepared and flexible artists are, the easier the managing of the chaos that is one of these events.
I booked a 10x20 double booth and, although that means more work in setting up, also means more breathing room inside for me and a chance to really show off all my available matted and framed works. 


Tempe Festival of the Arts is a twice-yearly extremely well attended and well organized festivals. Attendance is in the hundreds of thousands, an astounding mass of people walk by the 400+ artsand crafts booths. Madness to set up, madness during and complete chaos to tear down...I LOVE IT!!! Fortunately it is very well organized, has the full support of town, great security, great weather, and I have been there so many times before I am very much looking forward to going back to downtown Tempe, Arizona and seeing all my artists friends and some of my most faithful collectors. Less than three weeks...yikes!

Evolution of the Steed

First and foremost is getting the faithful steed ready for a road trip. Tune up this time, and perhaps the all important brake check. Festival wares take up space and can be crammed in all types of creative vehicles. My own evolution from top rack of the GMC Jimmy to a truck/camper combo has taken me through van and trailer. Advantages and disadvantages to all types of configurations of course, while a trailer was very convenient in that it doubles as storage (no loading or unloading of equipment between shows), the current truck/camper combo is much more flexible and agile to drive around in crowded festival aisles.
Here are som fun pictures of the various "steeds" through my career as an art festival artist.
"Truckie" a 1978 Datsun Galavan,
most of you young'uns don't know what a
Datsun is ha ha

"Tiny Trailer" still serves me well on multiple show trips

Ramps are a secret obsession of mine... are hand-carts and dollies

Always always check for cats before leaving

Current truck "the faithful steed" and trailer

Faithful steed with cargo saddle added

See you in Tempe!!!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ink can trick...with duct tape, of course!

Keeping ink fresh

Always a bummer to start out your printing day by having to carefully remove the anti-skin paper from your ink can only to find skin on your ink anyway. For one thing, those flimsy waxed papers aren't big enough, ever, for the can, ever, ever. So ink skins along the edges.
fresh ink, sniff sniff....aaaahhh
And for another thing, the ink seems to skin anyway right under the paper and the top layer sticks to the bottom of the anti-skin paper. Either way ink is lost every time.
Then I proceed to remove the tiny bits of dried up ink from the sides of the can. Takes some time to get the darned clean glob of ink nicely spread on my slab.
the dog, always oblivious to my genius
Two solutions:
 I started using a disc of foamboard, cut precisely to the inside diameter of the can. I press the disc firmly against the ink and leave a threaded piece of string to easily lift the foamboard disc. Works okay and I can scrape the underside of the foamboard disc with my ink knife so as not to waste a precious drop. Since I frame my own works, scraps of foamboard are a-plenty.

But now I use that marvel of material that should be a staple in everyone's home, backpack, purse, vehicle, bicycle...yes, friends, now you can use DUCT TAPE to prevent your ink from skinning in the can. Easier to cut than foamboard and with the advantage that you can let it "ride" up the sides of the can to prevent ink from drying there. Here is a video on my YouTube Channel and still pictures at the bottom.

Still pictures follow

double layer of duct tape, sticky side to sticky side

mark the size of the can with the top

cut along the edges, leave two "ears" for picking up

pick up by ears

awesome, no skin on my ink!

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