29 April 2006
My friend Tom left an excellent suggestion in the last post about somehow adjusting the light sources on the human figure. I often ignore Tom's excellent suggestions, as I'm very stubborn, but he graciously continues to offer them. Today I tried darkening the shadow on the right side of the figure and I think it makes the print even stronger. Thanks, Tom.
28 April 2006
Here's the final version of the Let Go print. The prints are drying now, so I haven't culled them yet, but I think it will be a variable edition of somewhere between 8 and 10 prints. The paper is Echizen Kozo, which I've been using for several months.
This print feels like a big turning point for me. Visually it's different from my previous prints and the process, too, was different. Instead of "building" the picture from various pieces of color on the carved blocks, I worked on this more like a monoprint. I painted on the block using several types of brushes, not just the traditional maru bake, and I sometimes applied more than one color to the block for one impression. I let myself be much more experimental, sometimes letting the paper get dryer, sometimes adding moisture, and overall I felt more confident about following my whims.
And, most wondrous of all, I even abandoned my original idea. Even though I had already cut the blocks! But not before I quickly printed it up, to be sure that was what I wanted to do. Just so you can see how far astray I wandered, here's what the abandoned plan looked like:
This print celebrates my 1-year anniversary as a woodblock printer. Many more years to come, I hope.
27 April 2006
I decided not to add the layer of clouds, as I've become much too interested in this texture. I also decided to add a little red and white striped costume to the figure, so above shows two more impressions: (1) a field of gray to shade the right side of the suit and (2) the red stripes over the gray.
Then I tried a blue bokashi across the top:
Kind of moody, and I like it.
26 April 2006
Here's how the "Let Go" print looks now, with a layer of yellow/gold overprinted. I like this effect a lot. Now I'm at a crucial point where I need to decide if I should follow my original plan (see sketch posted on April 20) or go in a new direction. This is a point I've reached in the past and have found myself not able or willing to deviate from the plan. I hope this time I'll be able to do it: Let go!
24 April 2006
I carved a couple of blocks for my "Letting Go" print over the weekend and today I started printing. I've been wanting to discover ways to get more texture in my prints, so I've tried putting this layer of gray down first. I'm working a small batch, just 16 sheets of paper, and I did this first pass with no paste, lots of water, and the paper only barely damp. Obviously this will be a variable edition, with each print being unique.
Here's a closer view:
And here's a print with some strong baren suji (marks left by the baren):
This is pretty strong gray and it's quite possible I'm just going to end up with a muddy mess, but I'll never know unless I try it.
21 April 2006
20 April 2006
I just pasted this sketch onto a couple of boards, a new addition to the "rope" series. This one is called "Let Go." My goal with this print is to experiment with getting a more painterly effect in the background. I want to try to use the wood almost the way one uses an acrylic plate when doing a monotype, working the pigments on the board. I don't know if that's even possible. Maybe the wood is too thirsty and will soak up the paint too much to get the effects I'm imagining, but that's what I plan to play with this time.
18 April 2006
Born in Japan in 1937, woodcut artist Naoko Matsubara has lived in Toronto since 1972. In the 1960s she worked with the late Fritz Eichenberg, a wood-engraving artist and historian of print-making, and she also taught for a time at the Pratt Graphic Center in New York and at the University of Rhode Island. I like the energy of her cut lines as well as the simplicity of her designs. More of Naoko's work can be seen here.
13 April 2006
Today on Illustration Mundo I found a link to illustrator Sam Hundley's web site. Sam does block prints for commercial clients using large 1-inch thick styrofoam blocks. He has a neat tutorial on his site showing his method. It looks like a messy process - those little pieces of styrofoam get charged up with static electricity and stick to everything. But he gets a nice look with it, and I'm sure it's a lot speedier than a woodcut.
07 April 2006
Tonight I went to the opening of a group show by members of Zea Mays Printmaking. Located in Florence, MA, Zea Mays is a 2,000-square-foot studio and workshop with an emphasis on nontoxic intaglio, relief and monotype printmaking. They offer courses, studio space and opportunities for artists who work in other media to publish editions.
The show, at Northampton Center for the Arts through the end of April, includes prints by 15 different artists in many techniques and styles. I was very inspired by it and I'm seriously thinking of taking some classes at the studio. Self-education has its limits!
05 April 2006
Founded by Kathan Brown in 1962, Crown Point Press in San Francisco, California, began as a print workshop. In 1965, Crown Point began to invite well-known painters and sculptors to come to the studio to make prints with the help of the staff. Most of the artists create etchings, although from 1982 through 1994 Crown Point added Asian woodcut techniques to its etching program, taking artists to Japan and China to work with craftsmen in those countries.
Kathan Brown has just released a book, Magical Secrets About Thinking Creatively, in which she recounts some of the things she has learned from artists about creativity during her 50 years of helping them learn new processes and techniques. It's a beautiful illustration-heavy book full of quotes from artists, inspiration, explanations of process, and insights from Kathan.
In conjunction with the book, a Magical Secrets web site has been launched. Check out the monthly video feature called "The Three Minute Egg" which will continue the exploration of creativity beyond the book.
Although most of the material in Magical Secrets About Thinking Creatively deals with etching and not woodblock, I'm enjoying the book a lot. It comes at a good time for me, as I'm delving deeply into my own artistic process and trying to understand it. I also don't know a lot about printmaking, so Kathan's explanations of the various processes - aquatint, hard ground, soft ground etc. - is a big step in my efforts at self-education. This is not a "how-to" book, but an inspirational book, full of the wisdom of a woman who has dedicated a lifetime to helping artists learn to print.