Friday, September 21, 2018

Studio B

Getting ready for holiday rush

I say that tongue in cheek a bit since there is usually a slight bump in online sales during the holiday season and usually earlier rather than later. But for those who enjoy giving the gift of art, I did enhance my online presence with a new shop on ArtFire (can't hurt the Google search). I also uploaded most of my framed and matted inventory to the Etsy Shop, links of both on the left.

And I had been meaning to reorganize what I call Studio B, a cat/dog hair free and quiet place where I can mat, frame and ship without sending my customers dust and animal dander (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Here is a panorama!

Left to right: matted works atop the "tape department"
boxes and packing materials, the massive flat files dubbed Green Monster,
mail sorters with small works, framing supplies and envelopes and finally
the other small sorter and my work bench
(cleverly disguised as photo booth at the moment)

Wheels wheels

I learned in my art festival days that if it isn't on wheels, you have to carry it. So I have acquired sort of a wheel-mania. These last 3 weeks I spent some time placing the shelves you see and the flat files on wheels. After some browsing on the idea-rich www, I found a wood shop owner with my same wheel-disease. He placed everything in his shop on 3/4" plywood and wheels. Brilliant!
Shelves were easy, my buds at Home Depot
cut me the 3/4" ply to size and I just
placed the plywood on two furniture dollies

Flat files on four massive 650 lb capacity wheels and
a double layer of 3/4" plywood

The flat files were the hardest, dubbed the Green Monster because they used to be green (I changed that awful quality with a case of neutral tan spray cans). All my prints had to come off, stacked neatly on my work table, then the drawers came off, all 15 of them, then the thing just comes apart in three sections, a foot and a top. Everything is metal and heavy. Few hours, and presto!

Now if I get a guest or decide to rearrange, I just roll everything around to suit my needs. Ah the hidden life of a working artist...

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Some details on details

Couple of tiny details

You may not know this but a while back I started carving my "chop" and a small relevant Native American symbol on my prints. Tiny, very tiny, so as not to interfere with the design. Since most of my work is "dense" with many marks and especially many curvy marks, these have gone unnoticed. Someone who bought one of my prints noticed one and asked so I thought I would share with all.

A "chop" is a special marking to identify prints produced in their studio or shop. This marking is known as a “chop” and is either embossed or stamped somewhere on the print. Traditional Japanese woodblock prints, produced in large studios with many collaborators, often have several chops stamped on each print, one for the designer, one for the printer, and so on.
The tradition continues in many studios and many solo printmakers choose to add a chop to their works. Two examples:
Bill Ritchie's chop stamped
from carved wood stamps (guessing)

Tamarind Studio embossed chop with
adjacent printer's chop

My chops

Ever efficient and slightly dissonant with tradition, I usually carve my chop right on the block and let it print within the design. Because I don't want to disturb the compositions, the chops are tiny and often hidden within a whirlwind of my markings. 
One chop I use is a simple rounded M with an A underneath, completing a circular design. My initials.
The other chop I often use is one of many Native American symbols. I have various books and cards full of them and have found many out on my hikes carved or painted in rocks around this area. Carved symbols or entire panels of Native art are called petroglyphs, many times the carvings are painted; sometimes erosion and nature's forces have changed the color of the carved portion against the surrounding rock. Painted panels are usually called pictographs and are a beauty to see, worn by the ages and telling of many stories of the ancient dwellers of the desert. Many panels have a combination of story telling and symbolism. Really fascinating stuff to learn.
Susan Glarion photographer, Newspaper Rock in Moab Utah

Here is my latest print highlighting the chop marks. The butterfly is Native symbol of everlasting life, the other chop is my initials MA in a circle. I add a different Native American symbol to my prints but always my initials.
Left bottom, butterfly symbol meaning
everlasting life

Right bottom, circular MA, my signature

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Done! Tips for engraving and printmaking with Corian blocks


Corian is actually the name of a synthetic resin by Dupont that is used for kitchen counter-tops and other fixtures. Another use for Corian is as cutting boards. So once upon a time, I thought to use it as an engraving surface although I was not surely the first.

Corian scraps are easily acquired through EBay and other online outlets, as well as any kitchen/bathroom counter manufacturer or kitchen remodeler in your area. If lucky, a kitchen depot place will let you rummage through their discards and you can get this marvel substance for free. Even when purchased online it is not very expensive, especially when compared with traditional end-grain wood engraving blocks, and especially for larger blocks.
Seeds are sown...
engraving on Corian
Also example of heavily textured
Corian block

Cutting and Working Corian

Amazingly, Corian is very easy to cut with a proper saw blade and will easily cut even by hand with a diamond or carbide blade. I prefer carbide blades on my jigsaw although for many cuts a circular saw or even table saw may be appropriate. The cuts are clean without chipping with a sharp blade and some patience, let the blade do the work rather than pushing it.
Crossing Paths, a large engraving on Corian

Preparing Corian blocks

Little is needed to get Corian ready to engrave. I like to give the surface a careful look because any tiny scratch will show on delicate prints. The surface can almost always use a bit of degreasing, like etching plates, because they come with a slightly waxy feel so that they will repel substances in kitchen use. 
I usually degrease with kitchen detergent and a soft plastic bristle brush. Then it will accept a drawing or transfer. Cleaning the blocks is very easy, I clean by printing and they give up the ink so easily that very little else is needed. I usually wipe with a dry shop towel and sometimes give it a last cleaning with alcohol.

Transfer or drawing

I have successfully transferred inkjet drawings onto the surface with various methods, my favorite is "Studio Paper" from McClain's ( Unfortunately, most Corian scraps are colored to resemble granite or other surfaces and sometimes heavily so. The upshot is that a generous going-over with magic marker is almost always necessary. The drawing with marker will eventually wear off after a few proofings and cleanings so be aware of that.
Advantage of drawing with marker is that the blocks don't need hardly any preparation at all. Just reverse your reference drawing and copy onto block.

Detail! oh my...

Datura, on end-grain lemon wood block

The main advantage of Corian is the amazing detail that is possible. I engrave mostly with standard wood engraving tools and only need to hone them slightly during work. Perhaps the biggest advantage of Corian is that it will accept limitless rotary tool marks without chipping, breaking down or disintegrating as sometimes wood and Resingrave are prone to do.

The tiniest details are possible so Corian has become my favorite surface for smaller works. A vast landscape on a tiny block has a wonderful miniature masterpiece feel to it. Don't forget to get good magnifying equipment and good light. I use a combination magnifier/lamp which makes working detail very easy. 

Printing is much easier than with wood as there is no absorbance of ink into the block. Very little ink is needed and spread very well but in a thin layer. When Corian meets paper nearly all the ink gets transferred with not so much pressure so printing smaller works by hand is fast work.
The latest, still drying on the rack
Not too far to walk, size is 10 x 15 inches
block slightly smaller

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Still working, another engraving on Corian

Not too far to walk

I'm into detail nowadays, makes me disciplined and I enjoy the magic of bringing something out of nothing with tiny little marks...LOTS of tiny little marks. Corian is perfect for that.
Since Corian scraps are often colored and sometimes heavily so, I have been using spray gesso (which BTW auto-correct wants to change to "gestapo" LOL). A nice thin layer of gesso and my drawings or transfers go on perfectly. Unfortunately as I engrave, the dark color of the Corian slab comes through but under the magnifying lamp, I can see all the lines like little canyons in the desert.
This particular block is a medium gray so once I inked and cleaned up, the elements show up nicely.

And speaking of desert, here is my latest, I'm on the third proof and still a bit of cleaning up and tidying up to do:

Block, proof 1, just defined the elements

Block, proof 2, light starts to appear

Print proof 3, getting there!
Some details to bring out,
more light in the background,
few areas to "correct"

I was going to call this piece "promised land" but being a realist I understand there is no such thing in life. All we have is our respective journeys and our feet. Once the walk begins, there is no place that is too far to walk if we just have the stubborn inclination to keep walking. The light guides us, surrounded aloft and afoot by prickly, sharp, hard and biting things, we bear all, we move onward to the destination, distant yet attainable and somehow irrelevant. Walking the journey is life, one step at a time. 
"Not too far to walk" is a a song by John Huling, largely unknown master flutist who publishes most inspiring native nature revering Southwest music.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

My 15 Minutes of Fame!

Just Walk With Me

The image Just Walk With Me is a triptych printed on handmade paper. My former and always remembered paper-maker-collaborator M.J.Cole from Texas made that gorgeous paper from my descriptions of the desert. The intent was to have handmade paper specifically for that print and to match the image I had in mind. I loved working with her and my images were greatly enhanced by her carefully crafted and beautiful papers.

Image available here:

Here is the image:
Just Walk With Me
20 x 36 inches in three panels
Woodcut on handmade paper

A GEICO Commercial Happened! 

Under the whoddathunkit department, I work with an image broker who sells some of my images to the designer trade. I get royalties from that and don't have to do anything except collect quarterly checks so it all works out.
A while back, they asked me to sign an additional release for images being sold to a prop company. The prop company creates stage, TV and film backgrounds for producers. So I did.

Cleverly enough, my image broker sold the middle panel of that image as a stand-alone to the prop company. The prop company used it in a GEICO commercial called Zen Gardening. Imagine my surprise when I am watching the NBA playoffs 2018 and I see my artwork on TV! 

A clever Google search by my hubby and we found the commercial, the image COOL IS THAT!?

Here is the commercial, as the young'uns used to say, "I'm stoked!"

Image available here:

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