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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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Road, A River and a Railroad Track

Travel Thoughts

I travel a bit and have even more so in the past. Not long ago I was participating in near 24 festivals a year, almost one every other week. Some trips I would leave home, attend two festivals in a row with a glorious camping week in between, and return two weeks later tired and happy.

In Utah under the rain
I love roads, every road, mountain roads, desert roads, dirt trails, highways...fascinating network of ribbons that magically transport my faithful truck from my driveway to a far destination. I rarely listen to music but prefer to let the road permeate me and fill me with all the passing beauty, desolation, open skies, forests, meadows, rivers and railroad tracks.
The River

Indeed many roads in the West crisscross paths with rivers and railroad tracks, again and again. On a recent trip to Utah I entered a canyon and counted the number of times the river and the railroad track cross under the road or the road went above the tracks. I forget and instead remember the bridges, the tunnels, the dams and waterfalls, the boiling river and the steady train...and me in my truck on the road.
Road at sunrise

Struck me that people and life are just like that: a road, a river and a railroad track. Sometimes we travel comfortable and predictably along straight tracks and safe tunnels; sometimes we take an unknown road, knowing that it was built and must begin and end somewhere; yet others we ride the rivers, unpredictable and a bit dangerous...just enough.

So it was destiny that I would make art about it. I may make more than one piece because there is so much to remember. This first piece starts out as a simple depiction of just the theme, a road, a river and a railroad track. Next time you travel, watch for them to come together and disappear apart in the distance, only to come together again, over, under...

First Sketch for A Road, A River and a Railroad Track

Road, River and Railroad

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Coordinating a Printmaker's Exchange

Addicted Collectors

Printmakers have traditionally exchanged prints since the dawn of printmaking. The fact that fine prints are produced in multiples leads to the side-effect that we enjoy sharing those extras with each other. 

As you may know, I am one of the fearless leaders of the printmaking group We conduct quarterly exchanges and we are now on our happy 73rd exchange! I proudly own thousands of prints from all over the world.

Some of the prints from Exchange #72, Theme "Wings"

Bea Gold

Julio Rodriguez

Lindsay Schwartz

Martha Knox

Exchange Coordinator in Pictures

Coordinating requires some organization and much patience, here are the tasks:

-Communicate with 30 printmakers and crack the whip as the deadline nears
-Keep track of drop outs and problems
-Gather 30 sets of prints that come in the mail along with envelopes and return postage
-Collate sets of prints
-Print an information sheet with info for each print as sent by the artists and insert in each packet
-Mail the sets back to each artist
Sorted piles and cases ready

My two printers
I mean, printing in sync

A finished set with information sheet in back,
Right hand is the spreadsheet that keeps me sane

Red line means DONE!

A little trip to the Post Office, always fun...

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Friday, April 21, 2017

The case of the case

A little something for my Baren friends

I am coordinating's Exchange #72 and decided to make some glorified paper holders for my fellow printmakers. This way all the prints are nice and neat in a "keepable" folio. Why not?!
Incidentally coordinating an exchange is most exciting and probably a lot of work but the good kind of work. The coordinator gets to see all the images first hand and often gets extra prints and cool cards and notes along with the prints. 

Anyhow, here is the case construction in pictures for anyone who wants to make their own. I got the design from a book-binding book I own (one of many) and modified it to hold the 30 prints of this exchange.

neat linen paper

start out with clean sheet

a couple of prototypes

winning design cut in matboard
serves as a template

31 times cut along the border
cut pattern

few folds with a bone folder


all ready to glue

I buy glue by the gallon!

some inserts to stiffen up the folder

covered up in matching paper

burnishing with bone folder

back finished

another insert for the front flap

brushed glue with sponge brush

folded and burnished

inner pocket for the prints

final touch!

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Advancing on Two Fronts, Must Be Spring!

Energy! Two Studio Tricks

I love it when I'm full of energy...mostly because some (other) times I have to "make" myself work, ups and downs, you know...
Anyhow, I am fully enjoying a flurry of self-inflicted activity, and making progress on a long project and a short-ish project.

The Long: Ghost Town

About a week ago I finished carving not only the 20 small woodcuts for the Ghost Town project but also a medium size View block. The 20 4x6 inch blocks are ready to print and so I started mulling how to make a big project not so big. Turns out, a sheet of 22x30 inch paper will print 9 at a time with generous margins.
I have printed multiple blocks before, all this trick necessitates is a "jig" that holds the blocks in place while a large sheet of paper is placed on a few blocks simultaneously. The "lock" (in letterpress called a chase) has to be slightly lower than the blocks so that I can ink away without removing the blocks each print. I construct these from foam-board, mat-board and/or gator-board, whatever thickness combination gives me the ideal height to hold the blocks in place just above the jig surface.
Here are pictures, better than descriptions!
First laying out the blocks and finding the spacing

Some calculations on the sizes of spacers needed
(I'm good at math!)
Spacers cut on left, glue and square ready

I place the blocks as I go to make sure they fit

Each block held at the right height by gator-board

Presto! The completed chase, blocks in place
Ink and paper required, After the blocks are printed
I can trim the paper to size

The Short: Wings Exchange, the Flying Maple Seeds

Also made the final adjustments on the Seeds are Sown, Life is Grown print for the 72nd print exchange. I will detail the complete process in next post, but here are the photos and the video:

First vs second proofs

block and print

Last few details and cleaning up
require my magnifying lamp

Detail of my tiniest tool doing some
delicate carving

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