Monday, April 22, 2013

It's EARTH DAY! I drew a garden, did you make art today?

Celebrating Earth Day

It's Earth Day, friends! All day, all week for me, month, whatever...I love nature. What better day to get motivated to draw our garden in the real blocks!

While you were all having a wonderful weekend, I enlisted my favorite accomplice to fire up the table saw and cut our blocks to size. I could have cut them by hand but I believe in the proper tool for the proper job and the table saw makes perfectly straight and smooth cuts when properly outfitted with a fine tooth blade.

Besides, in early celebration of Earth Day, I had to transplant some tiny trees that will soon to give our front porch natural shade and privacy, so I needed the time and power tools save time. After the weekend was done, I had four perfectly sized cherry plywood blocks sanded smooth and eagerly awaiting my charcoal stick.

The Garden Is Planted

There is really no mystery about how the drawing gets done, I grab a willow charcoal stick so I can erase at will and reproduce the earlier drawing on the blocks. I use the old tried and true method of subdividing each block into smaller rectangles to guide my lines.

I lightly block out the main shapes first, changing position of the elements as needed for good fit. Later I strengthen the elements gradually when I am satisfied with the overall design and placement. The drawing changes a bit because there are some considerations unique to the puzzle project.

First, each potential piece has to be determined and I have to make sure that the pieces are adequate for a small image. This means pieces should be roughly 5 inches or 13 centimeters in diameter and have adequate "real estate" to draw an image, no elongated pieces, no strangely shaped pieces.  Well, they are all a bit strange, roughly. And that means that caterpillars get fatter, mushrooms get rounder, fish and birds get plump and flowers petals get big while their stems get smaller.

Second, there has to be at least as many puzzle pieces as there are participants. A bit of experience has taught me that one 22 x 30 inch (56 x 76 cm) wood block will yield about 20-24 adequate puzzle pieces. As I draw, I make sure that this actually happens. The charcoal stick is very soft and gets erased with the palm of my hand as I arrange, rearrange, draw, erase, enlarge, adjust and pretty much make a dusty mess of myself, the blocks and any cats that happen to walk about.

Finally, the puzzle pieces have to "fit" into the overall design and the background needs to be de-emphasized so that the individual images will shine. However, enough of the background has to remain so that the overall design does not disappear and leave the pieces too incoherent. A balance has to be struck!
Also, at this point I line up the blocks against each other so that the design flows from one block to the next. The tiny "cheat sheet" laying on the block above is a replica of the large design folded in fourths so that I can focus on each block's elements.

At this point, our garden doesn't look like much because it is missing the crucial ingredient: YOU! Although the general design is still very much there, the little pieces is what will bring our garden to life. 
Four blocks all together with the garden "planted"

Will you be a mushroom cap? A tree knot?
A happy river rock? A chunky caterpillar?

Tomorrow, I will make final adjustments and strengthen the lines with ink. While the blocks are still in one piece, I give them a final sanding which both smooths them and gets rid of the remaining charcoal dust and I cover front and back with a light wash of walnut ink.
Then the jig-saw (saber saw) gets fired up with a brand new set of scroll blades and the cutting begins. But that may be another day yet.

Our garden is planted!

Fantastic Garden Headquarters:

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