Thursday, October 3, 2019

Getting the hang of finishing carved wood

The scary part

I really enjoy carving the woodblocks and I am getting a bit bolder, I'm thinking full 3D sculpting next year!? maybe...
Hija del Sol (Daughter of the Sun) gets a remake. Actually the entire history of this image which dates back to 2002 goes like this: I completed Hija del Sol way back as a reduction print, sold out the edition then and two years ago decided to rekindle my love for this print and revived it as "Just You and Me," a homage to nature.
Getting there, with the print reference hanging
to guide my chisels

I believe I'm finished carving, now for the scary part

Anyhow, this block was challenging because it was cherry plywood and that means 7 layers of different "stuff" that appears while carving. Although that in itself is interesting, I wondered how the different layers would take stain and oil and if that would make a horrendous mess. After roughly a week of carving, the thought of staining and messing up can be a bit daunting.
But today I felt bold and adventurous...

Stains and pigments and oil

Scary part 1 completed
A base coat of golden oak stain with:
1. Gold pigment by the sun
2. Copper pigment next layer
3. Mixed with cherry stain on the fringes
I use standard stains from the home improvement store as a "base coat" to keep the wood carving unified, after all this is not an oil painting. I apply the stains with fine artist brushes, of which I own far too many. I also want to keep the wood, er..."woody" not obliterate it with color. Stains are mostly transparent, they penetrate into the wood and darken cracks and crevices while really enhancing the carving, thus the application is always a surprise.
Raw pigments mix well with the stain and allow me to modify a bit, linseed oil acts as a binder for both stain and pigment and seals the wood. So far I haven't screwed up anything too badly so I'm happy with the results. 

Here I wanted to keep the wood showing, shine the sun gold and enhance the copper mountains. First coat was the lighter golden oak stain (MinWax) mixed with a bit of gold pigment (Daniel Smith pigment). Yummy shiny golden sun...I like it. I followed with the same base golden oak and a little copper pigment which gave a good transition between the lightest areas and the dark. Next a coating of darker cherry stain mixed with the golden oak for the front mountains, the water shadows and some of the sky. So far so good. I felt emboldened again. 
As I want the stains/pigments to mix, I work fairly fast so things don't have a chance to dry, wet on wet as it were. If I wanted harsh contrast I probably would let some colors dry before applying the next. The linseed oil which I add in bits to the mixes helps keep everything from drying too fast. I also keep a bunch of cloth and paper towels around in case some stain goes astray. A quick wipe and the error is all but gone.

I felt I needed more contrast so I added a bit of ebony stain to the cherry/golden oak mix and slopped it (very very carefully) over the front mountains, water shadows, around the woman figure (with a tiny brush) and a bit over the back sky. Oh how I love is the final result with some details following. After about 24 hours I will decide if it needs a coating of polyurethane of if it's "a go" as is. 

Camus said: "There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night"
By adding dark ebony mix and later a few careful touches
of pure ebony stain, the light shines bright

Hija del sol up front, surrounded by gold,
ready to enter into the dark waters,
following the sun (yeah, I just made that up)

Gold, copper and umber mountains, the carving
really comes through when the crevices fill
with the dark ebony

Part of the composition with sun, mountains and Hija del Sol

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Carving adventures in bas relief

What to do with all those woodblocks

Printmakers are the luckiest bunch in art. Tradition dictates we are the ones who reach the audiences with our multiple editions and relatively affordable artworks. Although some see the "limited edition" as an obstacle, I have learned through the years that any one image has a long life even at editions of 100 or less. And they sell better if they are limited in scope as people still see unlimited editions as "production work" or "reproductions" gasp! Right or not, that is the reality among the masses.

In the shallows, framed along side the last print

Yet another advantage of being a printmaker is that we can have a foot into the "one of a kind" world with our carved woodblocks. Long ago I learned that the same masses also love the unique and are willing to pay large sums to be the only one to own a piece of art.
So long ago I started selling my cancelled blocks to satisfy that craving. With over 600 images completed, that's a lot of woodblocks I don't have to store!

How I cancel and beautify woodblocks

Floating World II

Detail of Floating World II
Cancelling the blocks is a problem because invariably some wanna be artist comments: "oh so I can make prints from that if I buy it!?" Ummmm... not really, no...definitely not! I had to find a way that the blocks were unprintable. Tried many approaches, signing and dating in the front of the block, heavy polyurethane coating, stain and poly to fill the lines, leave the last inking to dry on the block to fill in the lines. All were good approaches and made the blocks look awesome, but this year I decided to transform my blocks even more and turn them into bas relief pieces. And oh how I love carving!

Here in pictures are some of my latest creations.
This was a tedious undertaking, the block is just
9x9 inches. All I did is recede the background and
"round" the bodies to give!
Finished the block with two coats of linseed oil,
second coat lightly tinted with cherry stain to give
the lines more depth

This block needed 3 "layers" in bas relief speak.
Sky to be receded the most, moon rounded and in a middle
layer, and the lady-shadow to be the front layer.
Carving plank cherry is very involved, especially between
all those "cloud trails." 

Detail of the edge of the moon against
the sky layer. Trickery: the edges of one
layer against another get deeper carving
which gives the illusion of more depth contrast
between layers

After staining, sky got darker with an ebony stain and linseed oil.
Moon got lighter with iridescent pearl pigment mixed with oil, and
my lady received a very light coating of ebony, bronze pigment and
linseed oil. After the oil dried, I lightly buffed the whole block with
a soft cloth and gave it a polyurethane (satin finish) bath to seal
in the pigments.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Ahhh, the tingling of waiting...the thrill of victory!

Two for two

Booth at Tempe long long ago
I made it into Tempe! One of my favorite show for sure and also one of the most grueling in terms of set-up and generally, appropriately nicknamed "the zoo."
But it all starts with a delightful anxiety burst. Application process is pretty routine, go to the website, find the show as soon as it opens and apply as fast as possible. Why? you ask...well, as many other competitive shows, time stamp of application and especially of acceptance and payment are the key to a great location.

So I now have my first Fall schedule of my new and improved life as a festival artist all finalized. 
November 23 and 24 ArtFest of Scottsdale
Downtown Scottsdale Arizona

December 6-8 Tempe Festival of the Arts
Downtown Tempe along Mill Avenue, Arizona

Adrenaline rush!

This morning was the acceptance notification for Tempe, at exactly 10:00am Mountain (which by the way in Arizona is also Pacific Time since they do not observe Daylight Savings). Artists are instructed (twice) to await the magic moment while logged in to the website, accept if invited, pay and fill out an acceptance form with a time-stamp that confirms you are a complete and hopeless art festival addict.
Heart beats just a little faster a the minutes and seconds tick by...tick tock tick tock...10 seconds and I'm feeling all tingly...3...2...1! REFRESH PAGE!!!! Oooh, I'm INVITED! Ooohh, no time to celebrate, click click pay pay click fill SUBMIT!!! All within 24 seconds har har, I'm awesome...

Lest you think that is a bit extreme, within one (1) minute, the much sought out corner booths are sold out. Another 10 minutes and the entire "A" section (most desireable in terms of location/sales) is sold out. Wheew...

Yay me! Now the next rush to reserve a nearby hotel, they tend to sell out within a week and I like to walk or bike to the show. Gotta go!
Beautiful downtown Scottsdale few years back

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Thursday, August 1, 2019

Teaching an old dog new tricks

Trick one: less is enough

Teaching this trick was tough. This dog (that's me, in case the analogy eludes you) knows how to do a festival, having bagged around 200+ in my lifetime. Those included traveling as many as 1500 miles, rain, hail, snow, 70 mph gusts of wind, 107 degree temperatures although, of course, nice weather and beautiful locales for most. So what can a smaller easy festival in an indoor setting (no tent!) teach the old festival dog?

Here is my pile ready to go, hardly a dent in my muscles and hardly a load for my truck. Three print bins, a fold-a-carry-all-office desk (Flight-Table), a stool to sit on. Which makes me a bit I have EVERYTHING???
Ready for festivaling

Kyle Canyon Crafters Artisan Craft FairAUGUST 3-4 SAT and SUN 10am - 4pmTHE RETREAT 2755 Kyle Canyon Road, Mt Charleston NVlook for me inside the awesome lodge

Trick two: never enough tools

I have been reading about wood carving because, out of all the tasks involved in making woodcuts, this is what I like to do the most. So I am digging up all my used blocks and making some new blocks based on my existing images and making relief carvings. I started out shallow and will work to deep relief, maybe eventually go full 3-D. 
For now, I am enjoying carving every minute of my studio time and so I started reading to pick up tricks specific to relief carving. And here is an awesome one!

The traditional Japanese woodblock carver uses a toh or single blade knife to make the first cuts around lines. Here is a picture stolen from the incomparable Annie Bissett's blog

Traditional hangi-toh knife for outlining woodblock carving
And a fine knife it is, however I'm carving cherry wood and very deeply so. The blade of my hangi-toh (toh's I own several) just felt a bit flimsy and I had to go over my lines over and over and over and... 
Always looking for efficiency, I came up with the versatile chip carving knife! Of course I already own about three different versions, the one pictured below folds for travel and has two blades, one sturdier than the other. 
Presto! deep lines, full control and quick but precise carved lines and stop cuts.

The very chip carving knife I own

Woodblock for Moonshadow and my arsenal
I am making the sky recede, the moon rounded,
and the lady of the moon will be left up front
with some rounding and reshaping

The chip carving knife being driven deep into cherry wood

My depth gauge (yeah, I have one of those) tells me
I'm about half-way through the block so that's enough
for the deepest layer

I reiterate...

Kyle Canyon Crafters Artisan Craft FairAUGUST 3-4 SAT and SUN 10am - 4pmTHE RETREAT 2755 Kyle Canyon Road, Mt Charleston NVlook for me inside the awesome lodge

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

A tiny festival? New works

Festival in the Pines

August 3-4 at The Retreat
(formerly the "new" lodge"
or The Resort, depending how old you are)
2755 Kyle Canyon Road Mt Charleston NV
Oh it's just a little one for Artisans residing in Mt Charleston Nevada or whereabouts. But I'm getting into matting a little, no framed works except 8x10s and just a few. Easy does it...I will be inside the lobby with my matted displays.

New stuff

Kind of getting into remakes of some older works, especially big ones that are near sold out. The online world is completely different from the "real" festival world,  in terms of visits, sales and resulting income. So we adapt to the little prints and some of my best selling works are getting "revisited" in smaller versions. Still original woodcuts as I am making some modifications and carving a completely new block or three, but smaller. The image is roughly the same.

Fun! Here is a tiny "Oculus" remade into "Fragile"

Print Title: Fragile
Paper Dimension: 10 x 10 inches
Image Dimension: 9 x 9 inches
Block: Cherrywood
Pigment or Ink: Gamblin and Daniel Smith
Paper: Daphne handmade
Edition: 100
Comments: "For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are"
Those lyrics are from a Sting song, later I heard it by Jesse Cook. I am a loner and enjoy solitude but time and again I am reminded how very much I depend on and cherish connections with friends and family, however fragile they may be.
The image is a revisit of an early large print with some modifications...and a new tiny block of course.

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