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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