Friday, September 7, 2018

Some details on details

Couple of tiny details

You may not know this but a while back I started carving my "chop" and a small relevant Native American symbol on my prints. Tiny, very tiny, so as not to interfere with the design. Since most of my work is "dense" with many marks and especially many curvy marks, these have gone unnoticed. Someone who bought one of my prints noticed one and asked so I thought I would share with all.

A "chop" is a special marking to identify prints produced in their studio or shop. This marking is known as a “chop” and is either embossed or stamped somewhere on the print. Traditional Japanese woodblock prints, produced in large studios with many collaborators, often have several chops stamped on each print, one for the designer, one for the printer, and so on.
The tradition continues in many studios and many solo printmakers choose to add a chop to their works. Two examples:
Bill Ritchie's chop stamped
from carved wood stamps (guessing)

Tamarind Studio embossed chop with
adjacent printer's chop

My chops

Ever efficient and slightly dissonant with tradition, I usually carve my chop right on the block and let it print within the design. Because I don't want to disturb the compositions, the chops are tiny and often hidden within a whirlwind of my markings. 
One chop I use is a simple rounded M with an A underneath, completing a circular design. My initials.
The other chop I often use is one of many Native American symbols. I have various books and cards full of them and have found many out on my hikes carved or painted in rocks around this area. Carved symbols or entire panels of Native art are called petroglyphs, many times the carvings are painted; sometimes erosion and nature's forces have changed the color of the carved portion against the surrounding rock. Painted panels are usually called pictographs and are a beauty to see, worn by the ages and telling of many stories of the ancient dwellers of the desert. Many panels have a combination of story telling and symbolism. Really fascinating stuff to learn.
Susan Glarion photographer, Newspaper Rock in Moab Utah

Here is my latest print highlighting the chop marks. The butterfly is Native symbol of everlasting life, the other chop is my initials MA in a circle. I add a different Native American symbol to my prints but always my initials.
Left bottom, butterfly symbol meaning
everlasting life

Right bottom, circular MA, my signature

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Done! Tips for engraving and printmaking with Corian blocks


Corian is actually the name of a synthetic resin by Dupont that is used for kitchen counter-tops and other fixtures. Another use for Corian is as cutting boards. So once upon a time, I thought to use it as an engraving surface although I was not surely the first.

Corian scraps are easily acquired through EBay and other online outlets, as well as any kitchen/bathroom counter manufacturer or kitchen remodeler in your area. If lucky, a kitchen depot place will let you rummage through their discards and you can get this marvel substance for free. Even when purchased online it is not very expensive, especially when compared with traditional end-grain wood engraving blocks, and especially for larger blocks.
Seeds are sown...
engraving on Corian
Also example of heavily textured
Corian block

Cutting and Working Corian

Amazingly, Corian is very easy to cut with a proper saw blade and will easily cut even by hand with a diamond or carbide blade. I prefer carbide blades on my jigsaw although for many cuts a circular saw or even table saw may be appropriate. The cuts are clean without chipping with a sharp blade and some patience, let the blade do the work rather than pushing it.
Crossing Paths, a large engraving on Corian

Preparing Corian blocks

Little is needed to get Corian ready to engrave. I like to give the surface a careful look because any tiny scratch will show on delicate prints. The surface can almost always use a bit of degreasing, like etching plates, because they come with a slightly waxy feel so that they will repel substances in kitchen use. 
I usually degrease with kitchen detergent and a soft plastic bristle brush. Then it will accept a drawing or transfer. Cleaning the blocks is very easy, I clean by printing and they give up the ink so easily that very little else is needed. I usually wipe with a dry shop towel and sometimes give it a last cleaning with alcohol.

Transfer or drawing

I have successfully transferred inkjet drawings onto the surface with various methods, my favorite is "Studio Paper" from McClain's ( Unfortunately, most Corian scraps are colored to resemble granite or other surfaces and sometimes heavily so. The upshot is that a generous going-over with magic marker is almost always necessary. The drawing with marker will eventually wear off after a few proofings and cleanings so be aware of that.
Advantage of drawing with marker is that the blocks don't need hardly any preparation at all. Just reverse your reference drawing and copy onto block.

Detail! oh my...

Datura, on end-grain lemon wood block

The main advantage of Corian is the amazing detail that is possible. I engrave mostly with standard wood engraving tools and only need to hone them slightly during work. Perhaps the biggest advantage of Corian is that it will accept limitless rotary tool marks without chipping, breaking down or disintegrating as sometimes wood and Resingrave are prone to do.

The tiniest details are possible so Corian has become my favorite surface for smaller works. A vast landscape on a tiny block has a wonderful miniature masterpiece feel to it. Don't forget to get good magnifying equipment and good light. I use a combination magnifier/lamp which makes working detail very easy. 

Printing is much easier than with wood as there is no absorbance of ink into the block. Very little ink is needed and spread very well but in a thin layer. When Corian meets paper nearly all the ink gets transferred with not so much pressure so printing smaller works by hand is fast work.
The latest, still drying on the rack
Not too far to walk, size is 10 x 15 inches
block slightly smaller

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Still working, another engraving on Corian

Not too far to walk

I'm into detail nowadays, makes me disciplined and I enjoy the magic of bringing something out of nothing with tiny little marks...LOTS of tiny little marks. Corian is perfect for that.
Since Corian scraps are often colored and sometimes heavily so, I have been using spray gesso (which BTW auto-correct wants to change to "gestapo" LOL). A nice thin layer of gesso and my drawings or transfers go on perfectly. Unfortunately as I engrave, the dark color of the Corian slab comes through but under the magnifying lamp, I can see all the lines like little canyons in the desert.
This particular block is a medium gray so once I inked and cleaned up, the elements show up nicely.

And speaking of desert, here is my latest, I'm on the third proof and still a bit of cleaning up and tidying up to do:

Block, proof 1, just defined the elements

Block, proof 2, light starts to appear

Print proof 3, getting there!
Some details to bring out,
more light in the background,
few areas to "correct"

I was going to call this piece "promised land" but being a realist I understand there is no such thing in life. All we have is our respective journeys and our feet. Once the walk begins, there is no place that is too far to walk if we just have the stubborn inclination to keep walking. The light guides us, surrounded aloft and afoot by prickly, sharp, hard and biting things, we bear all, we move onward to the destination, distant yet attainable and somehow irrelevant. Walking the journey is life, one step at a time. 
"Not too far to walk" is a a song by John Huling, largely unknown master flutist who publishes most inspiring native nature revering Southwest music.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

My 15 Minutes of Fame!

Just Walk With Me

The image Just Walk With Me is a triptych printed on handmade paper. My former and always remembered paper-maker-collaborator M.J.Cole from Texas made that gorgeous paper from my descriptions of the desert. The intent was to have handmade paper specifically for that print and to match the image I had in mind. I loved working with her and my images were greatly enhanced by her carefully crafted and beautiful papers.

Image available here:

Here is the image:
Just Walk With Me
20 x 36 inches in three panels
Woodcut on handmade paper

A GEICO Commercial Happened! 

Under the whoddathunkit department, I work with an image broker who sells some of my images to the designer trade. I get royalties from that and don't have to do anything except collect quarterly checks so it all works out.
A while back, they asked me to sign an additional release for images being sold to a prop company. The prop company creates stage, TV and film backgrounds for producers. So I did.

Cleverly enough, my image broker sold the middle panel of that image as a stand-alone to the prop company. The prop company used it in a GEICO commercial called Zen Gardening. Imagine my surprise when I am watching the NBA playoffs 2018 and I see my artwork on TV! 

A clever Google search by my hubby and we found the commercial, the image COOL IS THAT!?

Here is the commercial, as the young'uns used to say, "I'm stoked!"

Image available here:

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Proofing...and back to the carving board!


Never was much of a "proofer" until I started wood engraving, Corian engraving included. In standard woodcuts I tint the block and carve away and basically what you see is what you get with some little details having to be tweaked here and there.
When engraving, however, it is increasingly difficult to tell what a block will print like. Hopefully, I have trained myself to carve darker than I want the end print to be. If it is lighter, that means too much has been carved and...well, I'm stuck with it!

The block carved at last! Or maybe not,
three close ups follow
Age brings patience in art, I think. So here are the first proofs and a bunch of stuff to clean up, lighten up, brighten up, enhance and so on. As usual, I printed the last proof on clear mylar so that I can reverse and have an exact copy of my block; if you have been paying attention (ha!), you know what I mean. If not, dig through my blog and search for tricks and tips.

Proofs were pulled with my ball bearing baren (say that three times fast), which is an awesome tool with huge power to pull prints by hand. Takes almost no pressure, stays very flat, does not rip the paper and makes a nice whirl whirl sound as it pulls a print ("it" pulls a print driven my hand, that is). Corian gives up the ink very easily so very little is needed to get nice blacks and lots of detail, I'm using Gamblin black.

Back to carving, sky needs cleaning up, areas need light, road needs work, trees need detail, river needs cleaning...back to the carving board!

Proofs get darker and darker,
patience is key to good blacks without
gumming up the fine details

The proof on Mylar, gets reversed to mimic the block

Proof on newsprint (always so warm and cozy)
and the Mylar reversed

The block after cleanup, never again will it look
so beautiful as after the first carving..sigh

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