Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Batten Down the Hatches-UPDATE

Got some good news today- my just barely completed entry for the upcoming Art on the Edge show at the Boatworks was accepted by the jurors. They ended up being fairly selective, accepting a bit less than half of all the entries. The big challenge will be how to hang all this very diverse art in the two rooms we have to host the show. Not everything can go next to everything else.

Now the bad news- With the expected arrival of Hurricane Irene this weekend and a statewide state of emergency already declared by the governor, the planned reception for the show, with guest appearance by DriveByPress, for this Saturday, August 27th has been cancelled. Actually it's more accurate to say that it is postponed, because there is an intention to reschedule it in the near future. Check back here and at the main BAC site for details.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Smoking in Public

A few people who have been in the Studio this week had seen the finished smoking print, but one goal with all my art is to get it into public view, and that moment may be at hand. Since there were on and off thunderstorms all Thursday evening, I left my matted print on the table where I had cut it. With better weather yesterday, I picked it up on my way home from work and dropped it off at my new apartment, along with the frame and plexiglass. Last night I got back there and put it all together, laying it out on my mostly empty floor. In the above photo you can see that I had stamped it with my chopmark in red ink (lower left of print), and also signed it along the bottom right edge in pencil.

Above is the matted print, showing how the cropped image looks. (it's a little dark, because of the relatively dim light in my apartment until I get some more lamps) Generally I frame prints in a more traditional way, with a little bit of paper margin between the print image (almost always surrounded by a black line border in my work) and the window mat, but I didn't want my black line border to show on just the two vertical sides, so I let the image go all the way to under the mat itself. Even though there has been a lot of disagreement about the interpretation of the figure, for now I gave it the title I had always intended, 21st Century Employee. Maybe the title will be enough for viewers to accept my intentions for the image.

The last stage in all this effort was to submit this to the next exhibition at the Belmar Arts Council, a show called Art on the Edge, which is intended to gather art showing low brow influences and techniques. The print wasn't created just for this show (the idea has been in development for more than 4 years, and the block started over a year ago), but when this was announced at the beginning of the summer, I figured the finished piece would be the best thing I'd have available to fit the theme and worked hard to meet the deadline. I volunteered to help with the intake last night and today, and brought the framed piece in this morning before the crowds arrived. Everyone who saw it come in the door was impressed with the detail and the strength of the image, but it's now in the hands of the jurors. I've known Jenn and Sarah for years and they both have claimed to like my work, but I don't know if they will see this print as fitting the theme and/or going with the rest of the works chosen for the show. (over 150 pieces were submitted) Juror results will be announced this coming Wednesday. Regardless of whether or not it's a part of this show, the piece will be one I submit to other juried shows, and choose for invitationals and solo shows, for years to come.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Frame Shop

Spent the day doing some stuff related to my move to a new residence, but did some art related tasks in the evening. In the afternoon I had picked up the newly cut plexiglass for the smoking print, getting a considerable discount. (the price I had been quoted yesterday turned out to have been based on the wrong set of numbers, but they decided to stand by it anyway) For the past several years I had been setting up my mat cutting machine on the dining room table where I have been living, but since I won't have a big table like that in my new place, I decided this was a good a time as any to shift that operation up to the Studio. So I brought the frame and all my mat cutting tools and supplies up there tonight, in between rainstorms. The proofs that I had printed the other day seemed dry, so I clamped my mat cutter to my work table and cut a window mat. (I didn't get around to taking any photos of all this, but there are photos of my homemade mat cutter in a few places on this blog, such as here if you want to see it) I also took a few minutes to test the new watercolors I got in the mail this week, on a scrap of print paper. Marissa, a fellow printmaker that I met recently, had told me that she would be in the area, so I had invited her to drop by during my expected stay. She showed up as expected to see the place, look at a few recent prints, and discuss some of our common acquaintances in the printmaking world. Before leaving, I assembled the matted print (the shorter second proof on Okawara) except for the plexi, which I'll insert on the day I submit it for the show.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wrapping Up A Long Day

Another very long and tiring day, including ordering plexiglass for this weekend, school business for the coming semester, securing some fresh mozzarella, hours of driving, and hauling bunches of boxes and pieces of furniture up and down stairs, in and out of homes. I considered skipping tonight's figure drawing group, but I figured I could use the relaxation. It worked out well that I did, as some of the regulars couldn't make it tonight and they would have been way short of money needed to pay the model. Of course, fewer people means more spots to pick from for my easel, so I was able to get good locations to work from the model. My first take on the first pose didn't work out well, but in the last 15 minutes of it I drew the piece above, which ended up being my favorite drawing of the night.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Smoking Figure part 38

A big day today, time to print this block that I started a year ago, based on an idea that I had been working on for years before then. As I mentioned yesterday, I had a little cutting to do, mostly in the piece of brick wall on the left side of the block. Took about 15 minutes. Then before I took out any ink I prepared my paper. At 48" tall, the block is too big to be printed on any of the papers I have been using for my larger pieces of the last decade. However, in my supply at home I had a few options. I had brought back a roll of Kinwashi from Carbondale (bequeathed to me by a fellow grad who decided to leave the program), a translucent Japanese paper with short bits of fiber within. More for decorative purposes than printing, but I have several yards of it and it would suffice for a first proof. I tore off a 5 foot piece, rolled it up, and set it aside. Also at home I had 4 sheets of professional grade Okawara, purchased at Pearl at a special sale price years ago (currently lists at over $25 per sheet) and set aside until such time as I might want to print a really large block. Each sheet is about 36" x 72" and a little thicker than the student grade version that I've used for my recent boardwalk series of prints. Still haven't created anything quite that big, and with no plans to do so, I decided to use a bit of it today.

I inked the whole block with my little brayers, a very long process. I carefully rolled my big piece of Kinwashi over the block, patted it down with my hands to get it to adhere a little, then started the rubbing process. As with all Japanese papers, the ink comes through quickly (see above), so it's easy to see what areas have been printed and how well. And as with all first printings on wood, it's very hard to get it fully inked. I did the usual peel back and re-ink routine in some obvious areas, but since I didn't need this to be a perfect print, I got it to the point where I could see how the block turned out and pulled it off the block.

Above is that first proof. It is definitely under inked in spots, but the results were good enough to provide the evidence that this is a successful print. Molly stopped by just as I was finishing it and was very excited by the finished print. She also took the photo below of me and my new print.

In real life, the model for this piece is about my height, so this shows that the scale of the figure in my print is a bit larger than life.

Time for the second proof on Okawara. One of my goals was to get this print ready in time to submit to a show this weekend, but there is a size limit that would prevent me from showing the full size print. The simple solution is to make a smaller image. I have some frames that can handle a 36" tall print, so I had cut a 38" piece from one of the oversize sheets. I re-inked most of the block, and then rolled out the paper starting an inch or so from the top, and finishing down near the top of the A on the cornerstone, as can be seen in the above photo. Despite taking my time with the second inking, this one still required some re-inking in progress, but the results are more what would be expected.

If you compare this to the first proof, the black areas are more solid black, and value differences in bricks on the left side of the print are clearer. And the cropped image may be compositionally stronger, though I do also like the full size version as well. Because of its poor quality as a print, I may try some color experiments on the large one. Meanwhile I still have a couple of oversized sheets of white western print paper, and when I have a some spare time in the coming weeks (and maybe after a few minor adjustments) I'll pull a clean proof of the whole block.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Smoking Figure part 37

After a couple of days devoted to other aspects of life, I was able to get into the Studio for a few hours late this afternoon, with the goal of finishing the cutting of the block. Most of that time was spent cutting out the remaining bricks (left side), shown below. Because this area is meant to be a little darker than the bricks on the other side, I cut all of them with the same small dot pattern, instead of the variety of marks found on the right. However, even as I was cutting it, I had my doubts about how this would look. Then I moved onto a few other things. At the top of the block (see above) I added a few vertical lines into the solid dark head reflection to break that up a bit, and decided to cut a gray tone in the irises of the eyes.

Toward the bottom of the block, I trimmed a little of the gray tone to the left of the figure, just making it a tiny bit lighter. After that I was tempted to try printing a proof, but at this size it might take hours, so I decided to do a rubbing of the whole block instead, using 3 sheets from newsprint pad.

You only get so much information from a rubbing, at best just seeing some basic light and dark compositional breakdown, and the photo above shows even less than can be seen in person. The pattern of the newly cut bricks looked to be simple polka dots, very different from the other bricks- it would be darker as intended, but I'm not comfortable with the difference in texture. So tomorrow I'll spend a few minutes to cut them out a little more, using just the small tool I used tonight, but making marks more like the other bricks. Then I'll pull a proof and either make a few corrections, or if I like it as it is, pull a second proof.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Smoking Figure part 36

Another day of running around getting things done. Item #12 on the list was getting into the Studio to do a little more cutting. Since there were plenty more things to follow, I couldn't stay as long as I might have liked, but I did finish the bricks on the right side of the figure. I didn't bother to ink that section this time- maybe when I finish the bricks on the left side.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Smoking Figure part 35

In between various errands today I visited the Studio for a few hours to continue work on the new block. The only thing untouched to this point was the bricks, so that was today's task. I started in the top corner and worked my way down 9 levels of bricks. I used three different size round gouges to make the patterning, usually one per brick to give some variety between bricks. Before cleaning up, I inked the area I cut to make the results more visible. (see above) Some of the bricks show dark patches, purposely left to indicate variations in the brick surfaces, but they may change a little before I'm done. Based on the time spent on this today, it looks like I have at least 4 more hours of cutting ahead of me to finish the bricks, plus whatever time it will take to make adjustments in all the other areas.

When I got home today I found a present on my front steps- the oversize frame that I ordered to frame this piece, in plenty of time for the show I'm hoping to submit it to. The bad news is that I looked at the recently posted exhibition rules and found that framed as such it would exceed the maximum size. So assuming I finish cutting the block in time, I'd have to submit a shortened version- a proof missing the bottom foot or so of the block, which would allow it to fit into frames I have. But that's an issue for next week. As for my new frame, it won't go to waste because somewhere down the line there will be a exhibition that won't mind including such a large print.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Smoking Figure part 34

I got up to the Studio for a few hours today. I decided to continue cutting out white stuff today, so I started with the cornerstone area in the bottom right part of the block. No problem with knotty wood this time, but around the black letters and numbers was an area of bad wood, with nothing to support the veneer on the surface. With some careful cutting and the application of of some glue I was able to keep all the text intact. The rest cleared from the block pretty quickly. As for the angled piece of the stone, I did more diagonal striping (like I did on the left side last week), but cut about half of it away to lighten the value. The results are shown above.

I went ahead and finished one other thing, cutting out all the lines of mortar between the bricks on both sides. Above you can see the whole block and how the values are balancing so far. That leaves only one visual element that hasn't been cut at all- the bricks themselves. You know what I'll be working on next time I'm there.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Smoking Figure part 33

Only had time for a short visit to the Studio today, so I decided to deal with the large white area to right of the face. Taking out broad areas like this is relatively easy, mostly done by outlining the section first with a gouge and then with a knife, and using a broad chisel to clear out big chunks of it. Most of it just popped off the inner core wood. The one difficulty was that this area included several bits of knot wood, very hard and very brittle. The gouges aren't as effective with these, so it's all knife. The other little bit cut today was the cigarette. Above is the results of today's cutting. Next time may be the broad white cornerstone area or starting on the bricks at the top. I'll decide when I see the block itself.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Smoking Figure part 32

Cutting the value/texture into all those bricks will be tedious, but it's pretty simple. The large white areas to the right of the window and by the cornerstone will be even easier- just cutting out everything but the black line shapes. The last complex area to start cutting was the window, and that's what I decided to work on today.

The large letters were cut out completely- they'll be white in the final version. All the other shapes represent either reflections seen on the glass or architecture seen through the glass, and are derived from the ink wash block drawing, which in turn was based on various location sketches and observations. (the identity of those items isn't important, just wanting an interesting and plausible combination of value shapes) For this part of the block I'm going to stick with the vertical shading and so I spaced my lines based on the values from the wash drawing. As with other recent cutting days, I rolled a tiny bit of black ink on afterwards so that I can get a better idea of how this will all look. The results of today's work can be seen above.

Like with the other days of cutting value, I know I will go back in later and remove some more. That large black shape (behind the big R) is far too bold, standing out too much for something that I want to act as background. (it was a bit more subtle with the ink wash) I'll keep it a dark shape, just break it up with a few key lines here and there. And I will likely lighten some of other shapes to push the value range just a little wider, but that will wait until I've had a first pass at cutting the bricks. The current state of the whole block can be seen below.

My goal is to finish the whole thing by next weekend, so that I'll have a shot of getting an acceptable print to submit to the upcoming BAC Art on the Edge show. I ordered an appropriately large frame, and have big paper and matting materials in the Studio. I'll hold off on ordering the plexiglass until I see how things turn out and if I stay on schedule.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

So Where Is Everybody?

After talking to some people at the BAC last week about putting together a woodcut class for the fall, it was suggested that I do an art presentation at this month's member meeting. Usually they like to have these close to the scheduled class to build interest, but the meeting tonight is the last one I can make for a while. Today was a typically busy day, but I managed to get up to the Studio in the early evening with enough time to quickly cut off those textures I was experimenting with by the face, gather all my demonstration cutting and printing stuff, and get down to Belmar just in time for the 7:00 pm meeting. I brought along the current block, and everyone was suitably impressed, with the size, the drawing, and the level of detail in some of the carved areas. (that rose arm tattoo has gotten a lot of positive comments over the last week) I answered the occasional question. So a good night, right? Not so much. The two other people in the photos with me and the person holding the camera were the only people there, making it the least attended BAC meeting that I've ever been a part of. And two of the three people have been in my Studio before, so it's not like they weren't already familiar with the process. The only reason that I did the cutting shown above is that there have been requests for photos of me at work on a block to promote some fall events. So tonight's event didn't do much to promote my potential class among the members of the BAC, but at least I got the requested photos.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Another Wednesday night figure drawing session, but they may be ending soon for me, as my fall semester schedule may not let me make it to these. So I want to take advantage of them while I can. A new model (new to me anyway) tonight, but I usually adapt to new faces quickly. The model seemed impressed by the strong graphic qualities of this 45 minute drawing. I don't know what she thought about the likeness, but the drawing is not without flaws, including a major one I cropped out of photo. I told her that my charcoal drawing are influenced by my woodcuts and it turns out that she is also a printmaker, and in fact we currently have work in the same show. The art world can be surprisingly small at times.

Smoking Figure part 31

Today's time in the Studio was devoted to trying out some value/texture concepts. The most important one was how to handle the bricks. I had done a little test a few weeks ago, but now I wanted to try such textures on a larger scale and adjacent to other cut areas. The area to the right of the face will eventually be cut out into a large blank area, so there was no harm in using it to test some marks and see how it would look next to the vertical striping. The results are seen above. Each section was made using a different size gouge. Molly particularly liked the lowest section because it seemed more random. I could see using different tools on different bricks to give some variety to the wall.

I moved on to two light areas along the left side of the block. In the drawing these look white, but in looking at my photo of the model in the pose, that part of the wall behind her is darker (her body blocking some light hitting the wall) while the area to the right was lighter. A similar treatment would make sense for this print, as it would put a darker background against the light edge of the figure (left side) and light against the dark edge (right side). So I used my V gouge to cut some very thin lines into the horizontal stone ledge under the window, next to her shoulder (above), using diagonal and vertical lines to show the plane change. I did the same thing on the slightly projecting stone base of the wall, next to her skirt (below).

Below is the current state of the whole block. That dark area by the face will be removed tomorrow. As for the stone areas, the one by the shoulder sits back nicely. I may remove just a little more, to make sure that it's lighter than the bricks will be. The lower one is definitely too dark, so I will need to thin or remove a bunch of the thin black lines. All those things can wait for another day when the ink is dry.

As of now, I'm planning to bring the block to Belmar tomorrow night for my woodcut demo. I need to show some examples of how I use the various tools to cut a block, and while I could do that with some scrap wood, this block will be a bit more impressive.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Smoking Figure part 30

In the early evening I went up to the Studio with 3 purposes in mind. First was to bring back all the stuff I had brought to last night's porch critique, which I had then brought back to my house afterwards. That I did. The second was to meet with a potential woodcut student, someone who found me through my website and is interested in learning the process. She showed up on time and I spent about 45 minutes showing her a few sample pieces (blocks and prints), and discussing the tools and other materials that would be involved. I'm looking into setting up a woodcut class at the Belmar Arts Council this fall, so it was definitely worth the time to get her input on what she'd like to learn. The third purpose was to advance the block a little more. Thanks to the long conversation, I didn't get very far, just starting to cut the light mortar lines between the bricks in the upper right corner. I'll be back tomorrow to finish those and move on to something else.

As for that class, once I have some concrete information to share, I'll post it here.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Good Old Fashioned Front Porch Critique

For the past two years, Mary (one of our regulars) has invited the group to have one of our summer critiques at her home, right beside the pool. And we've enjoyed those times, so when she offered to do it again this year, we quickly agreed. Unfortunately, forecasts had mentioned a significant chance of rain, but it was decided to go there no matter what, and if we had to we'd find a dry spot for our group. It was sunny when I began my drive up there, but a few drops hit my windshield as I pulled up. I quickly moved my tack board and block to the covered front porch, just in time as it started to rain for real when I got back to the car to get the rest of my stuff. I found the rest of the group down by the pool, in the process of moving stuff back toward the house. They had decided to see if we could use that porch for the event itself. If we had as many people as last month it wouldn't have worked, but we had only 7 artists and 2 observers tonight. As it turned out, the shower ended quickly, but now that we were on the porch, we stayed.

Six of the artists set up on the porch. Above (top row) are Edy's architecturally influenced painting, and a figure piece from Vince, (bottom row) my woodblock, Lisa's nest sculpture, Tim's drawing, and another figure painting from Vince. Below are two later arriving works (mixed media and linocut) from Jess.

Molly brought the finished Monocle Bear backdrop painting, created for a dance piece (and used that way once already). She hung it on the back deck, so we marched around the house to check it out.

We were hoping that Jane (who missed last month to get married) would be joining us, but she was unable to attend. However, Mary had gotten a cake for the occasion, with a congratulatory message for the newlyweds. And she thought it would be exciting to put sparklers on it and send a photo to Jane. Unfortunately she decided to do this inside her kitchen. Excitement did indeed follow.

Turns out that the sparklers create quite a bit of ash and even more smoke, which rapidly filled the room. And that was the end of the great sparkler cake experiment. We managed to clear the smoke without bringing the fire department or burning the house down, but it seemed like a close call. And after scraping the ash off the top of the cake, it was pretty tasty.

As for my piece, it got a generally good reaction. I explained my remaining plans for the figure. I showed an example of the speckled pattern I am leaning toward using for the bricks, and other than a concern over how long it would take to cut, people seemed to think it will work. Molly noted that the face seemed a little happier in the cut version than she remembered from the ink wash drawing. I brought a hand mirror with me so that people could see how it will look printed, and people liked the face even better in the reflection. That's good, because the next time they see it, I'll be showing the print and not the block.

Smoking Figure part 29

Got up to the Studio around mid day, with two goals. The first was to finish cutting the figure on the block. That meant finally settling on the tattoo. At my day job, the most common upper arm tattoos among the employees are name tattoos, usually in a fancy script, and I found many more examples on the web. I didn't want to do just that, since I had a text only tattoo (in Chinese) on the other wrist, so I decided to incorporate it into the previous design. I felt that the rose idea was fine, just needing a better drawing. So I erased what I had and redrew it, moving it a little further back on the arm. Those name tattoos tend to be significant others or children. I don't know what name would mean anything to my model, so I put in "Summer" which is not her actual name, but her professional model name. My thinking is that her choosing that name is a symbol of her love of the season and all that goes with it, less common than a personal name, but not unheard of in a tattoo.

I drew the new version in pencil (above), decided it was acceptable, and then cut it into the block. Afterwards, I inked it just enough to make it visible, like I had done with the rest of the figure. Results are below.

The only thing left on the figure to deal with is the eyes. I'm leaning toward cutting out the irises, indicating a light colored eye. Leaving it solid black would make the eyes too intense, and the stripe thing might draw too much attention.

The second reason for my visit was to pick up a bunch of stuff for tonight's critique on location. We had decided to go to Mary's house, and it's just easier to get there from my house. So I got the portable tack wall, the smoker block, our timer, and a few odds and ends.