Monday, October 17, 2016

All in the Details


Confession! I'm not much of a proofer...when it comes to woodcuts, that is. But wood engravings are a bit more demanding, capriciously so. Wood engravings (not mine in particular) have tiny little lines that fool the viewer into thinking they see shading. Fooling the viewer is what art is all about, by the way.
So I am looking at this Creatures of the Night (or maybe In the Still of the Ni-ight...) with a magnifying lamp and all I see are little hash-marks, squares, lines everywhere...and what I see when I back up is a night scene with a cat and a lamp-post and an iron gate. Funny, that.

First set of proofs

First proofs on newsprint paper,
building up the ink slowly

Proof on clear plastic, I'll tell you why in a sec

Proofs, block and the clear plastic proof by the block

Nifty Secret Trick

Apparently nobody says "nifty" anymore...when proofing woodcuts and wood engravings I have gotten into the habit of printing a proof on clear plastic, any cheap clear plastic will do. I have a bunch of transparencies from the ancient times when people did presentations using projection screens, so I use them. Then I slap the plastic ink-side down on a piece of paper.
What this proof on clear plastic does is provide me an exact copy of the print, reversed so it matches the block. That way I don't have to think "oh that area is too dark, I have to reverse in my head and find it in the block". I just look at the clear plastic pasted onto a paper and I can see exactly how the print looks, reversed. Told you... nifty!

Second Set of Proofs

Slightly more carved, especially in the lighter areas,
around the cat, some bush edges more defined

Proof on better paper, getting there!
Still some tweaking to do
Second set of proofs on the actual paper that the print will be printed on. I am using two sets of paper, a fine printing paper from Daniel Smith (not producing paper anymore), and a paper called Superfine. The Daniel Smith paper is slightly grainier with a very slight tooth, which will give the print a slightly softer look. Superfine is a paper meant for letterpress book printing, very smooth, slightly ivory, really beautiful. The smoother surface shows every tiny detail with a minimum of ink, perfect for wood engravings.

Tomorrow, final tweaks and some press printing. So far I'm liking the results but there are some rough areas to clean up still. A wise man (James Pink) once said that the final details from the time you think you are done until you are actually done, can make all the difference in an artwork. Something like that. 
I'm using a tiny etching press, most appropriate for a tiny wood engraving. Blankets, newsprint, ink, rollers, pressure...I set up everything late this evening so I could get right down to biznezz first thing in the morning. 

Part trois yet to come!

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Friday, October 14, 2016

A little wood engraving

New wood engraving

Out of this picture...
...a wood engraving is born!
We take the pibble-dog walking every night (and every day, and every morning...sigh) and it is now duskish-to-dark right after dinner time. I caught this feral en route to our feeders, no doubt, resting peacefully in front of my neighbor's gate. Cool, huh?
I thought much that a print started rummaging through my scatter-brain. That's pretty much how they ALL start, in case you wonder.

Here is my work in progress. As you can see, I flipped the image and accommodated for the elongated paper size. Aside from that, the process of drawing simplifies the details and the process of carving even more so. What is left is the gist of the image, translated to woodcut-speak or in this case, a wood engraving. 

I am using Resingrave. Resingrave is a synthetic resin plate made specifically for wood engraving. Takes ink well, gives very detailed prints. Only drawback is sometimes the edges of a carved line can crumble a bit under a larger tool's pressure so caution is needed when clearing out large areas.
More progress, some proofs and perhaps some paper notes next post, next week.
Engraving on Resingrave, resting on home-made leather support
Also shown some tools, a sharpening stone, and honing plate
So far, so cool... 

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Lemon tree, very pretty...for wood engraving!

Lemonwood for Engraving

Ah, I bet most of you don't know that song?
Lemon tree, very pretty
and the lemon flower is sweet
but the fruit of the poor lemon
is impossible to eat
And I bet you din't know lemon wood is perfect for wood engraving? Wood engraving requires very tight grained wood, very smoothly finished and it is engraved, rather than carved, with hard-tiped tools that also engrave metal.
I just received a perfect batch of tiny blocks from Paul Bendall in the UK, who is a block maker of Lemonwood engraving blocks a former block maker to T N Lawrence and sons London.
Paul's Ebay shop:
Tiny engraving lemonwood blocks, just in from the UK
Printing a wood engraving is much like printing a woodcut except it demands less ink, more pressure and a smoother paper. I have also found them to be "pickier" about everything during the inking process.
My personal wood engraving "arsenal"
patiently waiting their next project,
neatly arranged on a magnetic tool holder
Traditionally, wood engravings are smaller and more detailed than woodcuts and fine lines carved parallel to each other can very much mimic "shading" as in a pen & ink drawing. I have engraved end-grain maple (the most common), boxwood, end-grain walnut, end-grain cherry, Corian and Resingrave, the latter two being synthetic resin products.

A picture is worth a thousand fine lines...this was engraved on Corian (the counter-top stuff) which allows for infinite detail.
following the light
entrance to the Valley of Fire, my fav NV state park

Tempe Festival of the Arts!

Still a ways off, December 2-4, 2016 normal hours finally! 10am - 5:30pm daily.
Got my booth, PERFECT location! #1355 on Mill Avenue, between 6th and 7th
Here is the link:

Last time I was in Tempe

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tribute to

"We must, indeed, all hang together,

or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Printmaker Benjamin Franklin

Between traveling to festivals, making art, destroying my bathroom (see my facebook page), smelling the pines and all other activities that compose my very busy life, I delight in participating off and on in this rare creature we rare birds collectively call "baren". I just took great delight in catching up some of the online galleries of prints provided by the membership.

Baren or, is a loosely organized web-group of woodblock printmakers founded with these words: Chromoxylographers of the world - Unite! uttered by David Bull, our very energetic founding "father." His website can be seen here:

See the info page here:
Mostly we are a bunch of artist-printmakers who delight in the woodblock/woodcut process and enjoy exchanging prints. We (about 400 of us give or take at any point in time since 1999) have now exchanged prints 69 times and any one of us owns an astounding collection of more than 2,000 prints from artists all over the world.

We do this simply for the love of art, woodblock and each other. Many friendships have formed, many colleagues have come and gone, many side projects, some reunions, collaborations, exhibitions, a Facebook group, always the forum...list goes on and on.

Print Exchanges

Aside from the exchange of ideas and images now taking place mostly in our Facebook Group 
the highlight of our happy group has been the exchange program. We basically sign up, we make as many prints as we have participants and we all end up with a nice portfolio of woodblock prints from all over the world. We do this stubbornly again and again since 1999, four times a year.

Some wise quotes by our members:
"Honest effort and honest communication, that's what counts;
given that, anything goes." - [Baren] member Bill Mixon 
"It's in the doing that questions are answered." - [Baren] member Phil Bivins 
"Cut! Print!" - [Baren] member Dave Bull 
"If you like doing something, isn't it better if it takes a long time?" -
[Baren] member Dave Bull 
"Jûnin Tôiro (Ten People, Ten Colours)" -
Japanese proverb 
"... I consider this discussion about ... what art is, appropriation, editioning, if digital prints are or not fine arts, the deathly sin of using a laser or any other modern tool, etc. ... a delightful waste of time." -
[Baren] member Horácio Soares Neto

Again, here are the galleries of prints, we hope you enjoy browsing:

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Friday, August 5, 2016

No sooner I touch down...

Crazy life

As the story goes, I was driving back from Bellevue Washington and vowing to take 5 years off this crazy life when...ding! Message from Tempe Festival of the Arts in Arizona, letting me know that the very next day the invites for the 2016 Fall show would be sent. 
Tempe is a staple in my show schedule, a very well attended show with many avid collectors attending from the huge Phoenix valley. So I'm very tired and I still feel the tingle...where will I request a booth? where will I stay this time? single or double booth? ay ay ay...
And so the next day, I boot up my sleepy computer and, as I lick my Bellevue wounds and bruises, already itching to get my notice...

Going to Tempe!

Yay! By the time the email hit my mailbox I had chosen a booth, looked at hotels nearby and decided on a 10x20, double booth. Why not, only 4 festivals this year and none! scheduled for next year. I need to regroup in 2017.

Still a ways off, December 2-4, 2016 normal hours finally! 10am - 5:30pm daily.
Here is the link:

Last time I was in Tempe
double booth on 7th just off Mill Avenue
Info from the website:

"December 2-4 2016
Downtown Tempe along Mill Avenue
The Tempe Festival of the Arts is a well loved community event that showcases over 300 artists from around the country.  This year is the 48th annual Fall Festival and we have an exceptional event planned for you.
Look for a few changes to this upcoming festival.  Check out 6th & Mill Makers, a local Makers section curated by local artists.  Next we have added entertainment stages on 5th Street East of Mill Avenue and in Hayden Amphitheater, tripling the stages at the event.  Bringing the family?  You won't want to miss Kidz Row, where kids can see works by their peers and do some projects of their own.
And while you are at the festival, take a break from the crowds and check out some of our downtown restaurants, pubs, breweries and shops.   You'll find great spots that will keep you coming downtown all year long."

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