Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Mermaid Comes Around

A print project that I started last year finally reached its end today.  Part of the length it took is probably because it wasn't necessarily intended to be a print project, but these things happen as they do.

At one point last year my brother's wife asked me to create a sculpture based on something she had seen on the internet, a wooden mermaid.  I had her print out a copy for me.  Basically a profile along the length of the body, from tail to outstretched arms, hands holding a starfish.  I hadn't carved wood with the plan of making a sculpture to be seen probably since high school, but I do have a few degrees in wood carving, and a large supply of woodcut tools, so I took the challenge.  Went with 1/2" birch, what I'm using for woodblock prints these days, gridded out the mermaid shape, sketched it in pencil, then used a saw to cut it out.  Over a period of time I carved the figure with a fair amount to detail, in low relief.  The original plan was to keep the wood in a more natural state, but eventually I decided that color would make the relationships of figure and objects clearer, and having been reunited with my supply of water soluble color relief inks, had a plan.

Not wanting to waste the effort of carving the wood, I decided to try something I hadn't done since the 1990's, making prints as a rubbing, I draped my mermaid block with some thin Japanese paper, and rolled brayers with various colored ink over that paper, building an image on the top surface of that paper.  Different colored inks for different parts of the figure.  Set those "prints" aside to dry, and by last October they had done so.  Had no plans for what to do with these prints, other than to show them to a current college student working with woodcut, but realized if I was ever going to do this, it had to be before I finished the sculpture.  This process left some residual ink on the wood itself, having penetrated the thin paper, but not a problem because I expected to use the same colors to paint the sculpture.  When used in super thin layers, this water soluble ink dries very fast, but used as a paint, it was taking much longer, and in my design, some parts required multiple layers of color.

Was given no deadline for getting the sculpture made, so no problem.  Completed the piece this past January, seen above.  Just need to attach a wire and it's ready to go.  The piece is intended for the bedroom wall of my young niece, and I hope she will enjoy it, though it may be a few years before she can actually tell me what she thinks of it.

Meanwhile, over at the Belmar Art Council, we are coming to the time of the year to submit works to the annual juried exhibition and I didn't have much to show.  Have been in plenty of exhibitions, taking advantage of having a deep catalog of finished work, and spent a lot of time working paying jobs.  I'm sure I could dig up some old things never before seen in Belmar,  but I prefer to show newer stuff when possible.  I got the idea to make use of one of those paper rubbing prints I had made last year, so on a day last week when it wasn't raining or snowing (sunny days are rare in recent months) I went to one of the last area art supply stores and bought some paper.  Colored decorative paper, which seemed the logical way to make this thing happen.  I have several sheets of colored/textured paper that make available to students in my woodcut class, but I wanted something that could serve as a blue (water) background, and found some deep blue unryu with gold fibers and picked up a few sheets.  The past few days have been devoted to dealing with an apartment fire inspection, but that was finally resolved this morning, so I had art plans for the afternoon.

Today I brought my two mermaid prints and all my decorative papers to the Studio, still not sure what I'd be doing.  A few days ago I had located two long horizontal frames in my storage of old works, things that would be suitable for the piece, and measured them so I'd know how to format the thing.  Left the frames behind for now, but had those numbers with me today.  Up at the Studio, decided which mermaid print to go with and used scissors to cut out the figure, placing it on some plain white paper while I figured out the rest.

What I had decided on while still at home was the idea of collaging together things from all the colored paper, along with my new blue background and the cut out mermaid.  Below is the result.

I tore the blue sheet down to a size that would fit the window mat of one of my frames and then started arranging things on it.  There's the deep blue with gold fibers as my main background, and I tore thin strips of another blue and some brown that had a ripply pattern on it, plus a greenish color that I though would be suitable for undersea plants, so I made some of those.  All held in place with some PVA.  There is a variety of shape and value.  Warm colors and cool colors.  Horizontal and vertical movements.  Still, not like anything I've done before.  For my print projects I generally start with an idea or a concept, or at least a vision, and I work to make that thing happen.  However, there is relatively little of me in this piece.  I did not select the subject or what she looks like.  Mostly I just picked the colors of everything.  But it does give me an option for submitting to the show.   Deadline is tomorrow, so I'll have to figure out what I'm doing soon.


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