Sunday, December 28, 2008


I'm planning a large scale woodblock print about the longevity of the Horseshoe Crab and I needed to educate myself about a few things including Trilobites. One thing I learned is that Trilobites (a long extinct race of sea creatures that flourished during the Cambrian and Ordovician time periods) practice what is called "enrollment" when threatened. They tuck most of their bodies up under their shelly shield-like heads and wait until they can safely unroll again. There are even matching grooves in their exoskeletons where their front and back ends can lock together like a jigsaw puzzle.
The point is I hate the camera. I avoid getting my picture taken when I can. I had a woodblock printing demonstration for my art center's open house and my husband took photos. I guess I will unroll now and put pictures of myself on the internet. It was a lot of fun and people seemed to like seeing the prints come off of the blocks. It's nice to share that moment and see complete strangers share the excitement that you experience in the studio when pulling prints. I normally don't print Moku Hanga style on my Pilot Press table but it was right in front of the door and I wanted people to have a straight shot glance from the door that something cool was going on in Studio Zero! Kids really enjoyed the process and I wish I could teach the block printing to that age level but knives and kids don't mix. Anyway, a good time was had by all and the weather was nice. I just love the light that spills into my studio through those windows!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The familiar taste of Crow

Well, as I recall, I was going to letterpress in the title of the "Diospyros Virginiana Quatrefoil" as I was not going to right it 50 or 60 times. I have a beautiful set of type I purchased from NA Graphics called Franciscan that I have never used and now was the time to play with it....until I realized I was spacing material poor. I didn't have a scrap of 16 point spacing material to save my life and there was no money for a set (which probably goes for about 100.00 now). I'll just have to rub my pennies together for another day. So, I sat down at the table and began the editing process and it turns out that I only had to write "Diospyros Virginiana Quatrefoil" 30 times. Sadly, only 30 made it from 50 sheets of paper because I was paying more attention to people walking around the studio and asking questions than the edition printing. No matter, I will recycle them in some sort of creative way. There were some cute kids that came and went throughout the day and one of them even dug a reject print out of my paper recycling and said "Can I have this? I could draw on it or something." I told him that he should just go right on ahead and that that was a very good idea. I will post another blog entry of photos from the demonstration just as soon as I can get the nerve up to look at photos of myself. Man, I hate the camera. :)
Here is a comparison photo of the persimmons painting versus the persimmons print.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ready for the last block!

Well, it has taken me three days to get to this point and now I will rest! I am leaving the final key block (brown outline of the persimmons) for my demonstration on Saturday. Not much is left to the imagination at this point though and these are intriguing without the outline but I'm hoping the outline with "seal the deal so to speak". Hopefully, I can print the titles for these on Sunday but that is if all goes well. This past Saturday I only had time for one impression although I had intended on doing three. In the middle of printing, I got a phone call from my brother in-law asking me if I would attend his wife's birthday party that night. Well, I very well couldn't miss that. She is carrying triplets and you have to give it up for a lady that can do that!
The first impression was a wash made of nori and a golden yellow. It was pale just like the under wash of the painting.

On Sunday, I started the first bokashi again with the golden yellow wash (which was barely noticeable, bleh). For reasons I can't remember, I then printed the light blue parts of the geometric background. I think the light colored shapes were messing with my head and I needed the blue to feel more grounded. After I printed the light brown colored calyx, I called it a night. I had carved little highlight dots in the calyx block to give some contrast. They were very tiny and I knew they would be hard to print. Some came out and some did not but it really didn't matter to me. My paper was still wet when I left on Sunday night and I stayed home on monday but I had turned the thermostat back in my studio so that it would remain cool. I don't worry about mold taking place in the winter but paper disintegration was another matter all together. But when I returned on Tuesday all was well. I think I had sixty some sheets of paper printed up and I started out looking at them like "Ugh, my back is killing me but here we go."

I printed the golden yellow bokashi and then a strong orange and the fruits really started to glow off the page. It was a wonderful experience! Another bokashi of burnt orange and the cobalt geometric background and I have reached the point that is pictured above. I could barely feel my legs and tail bone after that though. My studio is entirely on concrete and I had to stretch constantly while printing to keep my joints from fusing. I recommend Sam & Dave or Aretha Franklin to set the speed! Now, I know someone is just dying to point out that I need to make one of those nifty little tables to print at and I will not deny that it is on my wish list but 1. I need sharpening stones before that 2. there is no more room left in my studio and lastly and chiefly 3. my clutch gave out in my '98 Honda so ain't nobody gett'n nuth'n for christmas this year.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

More development as the Persimmon readies for its debut!

Ah, winter. How you mock me! The benefit to having a studio in the basement is that it is nice and cool in the summer time...which means I freeze my butt off in the winter. Often, my hands get chapped and I have lotion nearby but sometimes I can't feel wether or not my hands are too oily in the cold. So when I went to peel the pasted registration prints from the color blocks it became apparent that yeah, my hands were still greasy. Luckily, the masa didn't put up too much of a fight and the oiled part of the block happened to be a spot that was going to get chipped out anyway.

Here are all the blocks to be used in this print. The dark one with the chips of veneer that remain is going to be the light blue quatrefoil pattern. This one gave me fits. The wood under the veneer (it was 3-ply Shina) was very splintery so when I went to clear out an area near one of the diamonds part of the grain that ran underneath a print area came right out. Much cursing ensued but Mr. Wood Glue bottle saved the day. Yay! My hero! I am very proud of the dark blue area block that you can see below.

I am madly in love with Islamic art and architecture and the geometric patterns are reminiscent and the carve marks resemble muquarnas. Look up muquarnas. They rock heavy.

Even though I loath doing it for someone else, I love framing my own work. I hate frame making, and mat cutting, and I won't go within 6 miles of glass cutting but give me all those elements prefab and I will go to town. I framed the Diospyros Virginiana Quatrefoil painting and have it near during the printing of the Diospyros Virginiana Quatrefoil edition for color reference. I already know what I'm getting into with the title. There is no way in hell I'm writing that title out 50+ times in addition to signing and numbering. That's why mama has a letterpress! :)

The first color I'm doing is a very light golden orange. It came out more yellow but when I checked the painting that's what I had painted anyway. The bokashi will dominate everything anyway so I'm not too worried. Here they are hanging out in their little trash bag nest. I was originally going to save the last two blocks for the demo but I think I'll just do one because it's taking longer than I thought. I will be retaining one of each stage in printing anyway. I am planning on arranging them in consecutive order and framing them so that when people visit they will have a visual and I won't have to look like such a dingbat explaining it all. And now for a dark moment.......noting the glazed look people get when I explain it anyway I don't think they care. Ah "empty-pocketed-artist-cynicism", can you smell it? My studio is starting to positively wreak of it. That's when I whip out my handy aerosol "smile-and-act-like-you-don't-want-to-choke-the-people-who-show-up-every-first-friday-without-fail-and-drink-up-all-the-wine-and-eat-up-all-the-food-that-the-artists-have-to-pay-out-of-pocket-for-and-then-leave-without-buying-so-much-as-a-three-dollar-card"


I said it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What got into me?

I have NO IDEA!!!! But I like it!! After two weeks of fussing around with the fig stuff I'm blowing through work on the persimmon! This is the original sketch all painted up! Now it really looks like stained glass. I might revisit this effect as it's rater fun. The "stained glass" lines (measurements lines) will not show up in the print and I wonder if that will detract but I'm not concerned at the moment.

Just wanted to share the image of my desktop. Note the funny little pan of dimples with color. This turned out to be a great color pallet that is very convenient too. It was used as packing for something about a year ago when my husband bought computer supplies. It wasn't recyclable and I hate to continue to accrue things I don't need but his came very in handy. After I finished the painting I was able to pull some proofs of the persimmon block to make color blocks.

I left my bokuju ink at the studio and had some thinner sumi ink instead. I had a bad experience once with a bottle of indian ink I did all but weld the top onto but it bleed everywhere into my bag anyway during transit. If ink was to be spilled, I didn't want it to be my bokuju! This stuff was a lot runnier and the initial prints show it but after warming the block up a little and letting the paper air out a little things tightened up. Here is the proof of the persimmon. Tomorrow is color block carving day!!

Know thy self

Words to live my figs painting burnt me out. Not that I may not come back to it but it makes me sick to look at it for the moment.
Last year I had an open house at the McGuffey Art Center with all sorts of food and wine and it was fun while it lasted. Less to participate in McGuffey's annual open house, it was more of an opportunity for family and friends to come see my new studio. After it was all over and I was scrubbing punch and candy off the floor, I thought to myself that I would not be doing this again next year. Haha. So, I will be participating in McGuffey's open house but instead of having food I will be displaying all my artworks and hopping to jazz the place up (as much as possible anyways) to look like a small gallery. I will be doing a Japanese Woodblock Printing demo from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm. People usually don't know anything about printmaking and this would definitely be a treat for them to see what Moku Hanga entails.
I subscribe to a few magazines because I enjoy their aesthetic for the most part. Two of my favorites are Country Living and Domino and one of them recently featured an article on persimmons that focused on a local industry here in Nelson County, VA called Edible Landscaping. Trouble is I can't remember which one. At any rate, the graphics done for the article were beautiful and they shot some asian persimmons resting on some geometric textiles. I was struck by the beauty of the calyx on the fruit. The leafy area around the stem of a fruit is usually not noteworthy but the beautiful wooden flower that rims the persimmon is quite attractive. Because we have a indigenous species of persimmon here in Virginia and because I am in love with Islamic art and architecture, I thought this would be a perfect print for the opening. It was until I lost the article.
Confident that I needed the article in order to complete my "perfect" design, I set the project aside and set about designing a new print. I wanted to illustrate to people that for Moku Hanga the completed image (painting) comes first. (Know thy self!) This was not my process so of course I got bored with my fig FAST! For me, unless I really need to know what is going down for registration, I normally sketch something then carve it and figure out the colors later. I usually do paintings as a way to get instant gratification and to relax. I normally do not get the urge to make a print run for a painting. In fact, for the Book of Life project, I am making some paintings as a tool for color block orientation. So the intention of a print is driving the creation of a painting not vice versa. While taking yet another break from from painting the blasted fig, I leafed through one of my Domino magazines and an article on quatrefoils popped up. My mind was made up at that moment that I was going to do a persimmon print come hell or high water!

With the help of Google I found some native virginia persimmons to sketch and sat down with a ruler and compass and fiddled around with some geometrical designs. I whipped it into my scanner, flipped it backwards in photoshop, viola! I carved the persimmon key yesterday. There will be five blocks and one or two bokashi on the fruit. Today I'm waiting for some mulberry to soak up water to pull the registration proofs for colors. I don't have the heart to erase my measure marks. They look like stained glass so I think I will leave them.

Okay, so as always there is a danger of cutting oneself but I must admit I take a little pride in this one. I have a large shallow U-gouge I use for clearing that I had bought from McClain's a few years back. There is a metal ferrule at the end for a mallet but my block was so small and made of shina I figured I could just push it through. It was like putting a hot knife in butter! At one point, I had the knife in the wood with one hand and I stopped to pull my shirt collar out. As I held the knife forward, I drew my hand back to grab my collar and my finger slid over the top corner of the knife. I didn't feel any pain but as I continued to carve my finger started to itch. I checked and sure enough I had accidentally cut myself. No biggie but I am proud that after years of care my blade is still surgically sharp!