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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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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