28 June 2015

Sometimes Becomes Always I'm Married

On August 15, 2004, I got married in the state of Massachusetts to my partner of 13 years. It was an odd legal situation, so odd that our lawyer suggested that we carry our marriage license with us in our wallets whenever we left the state. For four years we were married only in Massachusetts. Then in 2008, things began to change and I started this series of woodblock prints. I thought that it would be a simple reduction print, where states would one by one be carved away until none were left. It turned out to be a little more complicated than that, as various states wrangled over whether or not to accept out of state marriages, or states like California repealed their gay marriage laws. I ended up doing a lot more re-carving than I expected. And then on Friday, suddenly, it was finished.

19 June 2015

Final Print: Wind

Watercolor woodblock print with stencils
26 x 38 inches (97 x 67 cm) on Gekko washi
edition: 2
With thanks to American Antiquarian Society for reference materials.

I finish this print with the addition of an anthropomorphized sun based on an 18th century almanac illustration and a little city taken from a 1762 woodcut whose original context I can't locate. The print began with a quote from "The New Book of Knowledge" (1767):
Wind is an Exhalation hot and dry, drawn up into the Air by the Power of the Sun, and by the weight thereof driven down.
This is an example of the science of America's founders, based on Aristotle's natural philosophy and the Aristotelian concept of "exhalations," which are ill-defined but seem to be a way of describing the invisible flow of things such as wind and water. Although some Newtonian scientific principles were available in the 1700s, historians agree that the replacement of Aristotelian cosmology with Newtonian was a long process and not complete until into the 19th century.

Also present in the imagery of this print is the fact that this spring two of my women friends – on opposite sides of the country, neither of them smokers, and within 6 weeks of each other – were diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. I couldn't make art about wind without thinking about them, without thinking about breathing, without thinking about the environmental factors that may or may not play a role in cancers and other respiratory diseases. I offer this print with love, for my friends and for our planet.

♥ Annie

18 June 2015

Stenciling with Watercolors

When I took a workshop with Karen Kunc almost a year ago at Anderson Ranch, one of the things I experimented with was using stencils with Akua and oil-based litho inks. I tucked that experience away in the back of my mind for future use, and this week the future arrived. I decided that instead of carving text, as I've done many times in the past, I would try stenciling it. And I decided to try using the same waterborne pigments that I use for the rest of my woodblock printing to print the stencils.

Given that so much water is involved in using these pigments, I chose to make my stencils out of acetate rather than cardstock or other paper. I used an X-acto knife to do the cutting. Here are the stencils after use:

And here are some closeups of areas of the print where I put the stencils.

I'm not saying that I'll never carve text again, but this method sure was faster!

16 June 2015

Final Reductions On Wind Map Block

I've made more progress this week on my wind map print. I ended up printing eight (I think; sometimes I forget to count) colors on the reduction woodcut. After that I printed a few colors on an uncut block by inking the block and then using masks to create the shapes I wanted. Here are some photos.

This is the final reduction, printed in blue, which I think is the 8th color.

Here I've added two areas of color, blue at the top and green below, using the same acetate mask for each.

I added two white shapes, again using acetate on an uncut block.

The white looks very opaque in the previous photo, but it's actually quite luminous and transparent.

More layers to come.

12 June 2015

A Wind Map

Have you seen wind maps online? They take wind data from the National Digital Forecast Database, which are updated once per hour, and display the data on a beautifully delicate animated map.

The print I'm making right now is about wind. I'm working from a sentence that I found in an early American almanac, a definition of wind:
Wind is an exhalation, hot and dry, drawn up into the air by the power of the sun.
It's an interesting sort of anthropomorphic way to describe wind, and not the way we would define wind today, so I took a liking to it. I'm beginning the print by creating a wind map and I'm using the reduction method, where one prints, carves, prints again, carves again, etc. I started by laying down a light yellow tint using the uncarved block (see previous post), then added some areas of magenta. Then I began to carve. Here's the progress I made this week.

First carving. I tried using a u-gouge but found the birch plywood too splintery, so I used a knife instead.

This is the full sheet of paper, with five colors down and two levels of carving. I discovered during the second carving that a v-gouge worked pretty well and it allowed me more freedom of movement in making the cuts.

Here's a shot of the print with six colors.

Now I'm carving again for the fourth time. It's getting kind of fun now that I've gotten comfortable with the wood.

09 June 2015

Making Big Art In Small Spaces

I'm starting a new series of print works on themes from colonial American almanacs and they're going to be big, at 26 x 38 inches (97 x 67 cm). My studio, which is a bedroom in my small house, is 12 x 13 feet, and I also use it as my "office" for computer work, so I'm using every inch of the space right now. I have a folding table that I keep behind the door for just such occasions. It's been opened up and sitting in the room with three big pieces of plywood on it for 10 days until today, when I finally finished some contract work and got started on this project.

These prints are going to be very small editions. I plan to make only two of each. My moku hanga friends sometimes get on my case about making small editions, but it's just the way I like to do it. I get bored making more than about 15 and, frankly, unless I think I can sell a whole bunch of something I'm just creating a storage problem! So, two of each and hopefully a lot of different designs. I've decided that since I'm only making two of each I'm going to do them as reduction prints so I only use one piece of wood per print. Also, because of the size and my lack of space, I'm going to try printing with dry paper. And, just to keep things interesting, I'm also trying out a new registration method, because I don't trust the usual Japanese kento method at this size..

I'm using registration pins and plastic stripping tabs from a company called Ternes-Burton in Minnesota. This blog post by Maurice Fykes explains the method in detail, but here are some shots of how I'm using it. It's a pretty tight system with dry paper.

The registration pin is taped to the wood block with clear tape; the tab is taped to the back of the paper with masking tape.

Two pins seems to be enough to register the paper and keep it stable.

Next, I moved a small wheeled taboret that usually hides under one of my desks to use as a table for my printing supplies.

I marked the border where the paper falls on the board so I would know where to ink, and I dampened the area I'd be printing. This is grade A1 birch plywood, and the grain is really pretty when the wood is wet.

I inked the uncarved block with hansa yellow and printed, just to tone the paper. Here's a shot of one sheet of washi toned (sloppily) with yellow and one not printed yet.

And below is a shot of the whole studio in full use. An edition of two is really enough! Now it's time to start carving.

07 June 2015

Work from the June 2015 White Line Workshop

I just taught a two-day white line woodcut workshop at Zea Mays Printmaking (Florence MA) and here's some of the student work. We had a wonderful time and I think the work is spectacular. Thanks, everyone!











Suzanne D

Suzanne (in process)

02 June 2015

New Series: Eyes On the Skies

While I was studying the graphics collection at American Antiquarian Society in April, I got very interested in almanacs. Almanacs, I learned, played a large role in early America. The second item ever printed in British North America was an almanac in 1639 (the first was The Bay Psalm Book), and in 1683 Cotton Mather said almanacs came into "almost as many hands as the best of books [the Bible]." Almanacs were extremely popular, and they were more than just calendars. Almanacs contained poetry, weather predictions, holidays, maxims, astrological information, farming tips, health advice, and essays on various scientific or political topics. Some almanacs came with blank pages for keeping diary notes as well, and they were offered at various sizes for different types of use. Reading almanacs at AAS gave me a window into 17th and 18th century "popular culture" the way I can imagine a future scholar might understand our times by reading magazines.

I'm about to start a new series of large works – full sheets of washi, which are 26 x 38 inches (97 x 67 cm) – and I'll be using some almanac quotes as my starting point. I think these pieces will be about the environment, science, and religion. My latest working title is "Eyes On the Skies," although other contenders are "I'm Not a Scientist, But" and "Small Talk About Weather." Since these prints aren't as pre-planned as some others I've done, I'll just have to wait and see which title works best.

Here's one of the discoveries I made at AAS that got me initially so interested in almanacs.

In a Boston almanac from 1774 were printed these two little scientific interest stories, one about microscopic life forms and one about the vast distances in outer space. Beneath the microscope story, an almanac reader had penned "A Dam'd Lye" and after the story about distant stars had noted "Another." It seems that denial of science has been an American trait for some time.