Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cooking up a new print

High time for something new!
Seems the routine is always the same: first an idea "gels" after much mulling and thinking, sometimes the perfect image just pops up but sometimes they hide until seemingly all of a sudden, there it was the entire time, hidden behind the obvious...like that pollen-drunken bee inside the top cactus flower.

I've done a print called Me in a Tree but now I want to be that bee and do me as a drunken bee...except I like willow blooms so if I were to be a drunken bee, I'd get drunk on the delicate pollen inside a willow bloom. So that's the plan, my next print, In a Willow Bloom.

Routines are perfect for getting going and, after the blocks are cut and the references are chosen, I have come to play with my buddy Photoshop quite a bit. I find it immensely liberating to just play (remember to save often) with imagery and cut and paste, put that petal over there, change the color scheme, darken, distort, transform, lighten, enlarge, miniaturize (a great tool for examining composition without interference) and pretty much sit on my arse for a day or two wielding my graphic tablet pen and making a mess...a virtual mess. Simplifying the image is a must and I do that by discarding much of the photo's information and drawing on top of the photograph with the brush tool.
Those there are perfect willow blooms and I'm going to get drunk inside them.

Since this is for a print exchange (http://barenforum.org) there is a pre-determined paper size so this image will be long and skinny.
Carving guide on left and outline drawing printed on tracing paper,
 on right, ready to be pasted on the block
Finalizing the composition, I simply discard all color information and apply a couple of filters to make the outline sketch that will be pasted on the first block. I also like to print a reference "carving guide" already reversed as it will be on the block.

I will add me as a bee inside the welcoming "cave" of the top bloom, the old fashioned way: with a pencil.
Usually, after pasting, I reinforce the outlines for carving with a permanent marker, which also serves to make the drawing a bit more loose and closer to what I would have drawn by hand. By the time I get done with the virtual brush tracing, re-drawing and carving, the design becomes more and more "mine".
 
I don't usually do all this planning for many of my prints and often prefer to draw straight on the block with sumi ink and a brush. But this is a moku-hanga, Japanese style print, and they require more careful planning.
 
Next I will need a color guide to determine how many color blocks I will need to complete the image. Next post!