Sunday, January 31, 2010

Two Posts in One Day?!

Just closing in on a personal goal. I wanted to complete the mantle of the squid in one day and I managed to do just that! It helps to have a driving force behind you when endeavoring on an arduous venture so I highly recommend Respighi's "Fountains of Rome" followed by sprinklings of Tom Waits. "Falling Down" and "Metropolitan Glide" should do the trick.
I had to get rid of all the eye parts and turn the skin into patches. The large pale orb definitely stares at you the whole time you are carving and I have a feeling it will continue to do so until I get to that part and it too will dissolve into a patterned patchwork. That will have to wait for another day.

Sparkling Squid!

So, I've been on this kick of trying to finish or at least surge ahead on the numerous projects that lie ahead. The inundation of snow and rain here has more than inhibited my process of finishing but the one good thing about piling on the projects is that if you get flooded in and can't get to the studio to print, you can always do design work or carve on another project! Here is the "key" block for my reduction series of bioluminescent animals. I have finished the mist of photophors that will be draped over his body in a shimmer of interference blue powder. The eye and side fins on his head still have to be carved off as they were just left there for registration purposes. Yes, it is curious to have a key block for a reduction print but it is the layers of "color" beneath him that will act as the reduction.

Here is a shot of the first run of the reduction block on my Vandercook. I decided that not only a blue bioluminescent squid would look great but also an "anti-squid" series would be fun. I have some paper that is made with bits of bark and large fiber tossed in it. A luminescent squid printed up with layers of tint base extender with a hint of black and a dark silver dusting my look neat. Here is a shot of that paper over the first run of the reduction block. Those paper registration tabs were the HUGEST pain in the @ss to put on. I had to measure the exact middle of the paper and then the exact middle of the tabs and then line those up to tape down. Even then the registration wasn't spot on on some of them but the joy of the bark paper was I could see through it to register the bottom if it wasn't exact.

In past prints, one of the things I tried to eliminate was inconsistency but as I got exposed to more techniques in printmaking and more work from other artists I grew envious of certain textures and wanted to try some of these things myself. I really enjoy the fine texture of the wood that has been picked up in this oil based print. The ingres paper in the blue series works well with this as it gives the illusion of deep ocean with its dark waters containing much detritus and it helps the effect of translucency in the white squid.

Of course, using handmade paper with bits of bark and larger fiber tossed in is a total embrace of inconsistency and I actually sought out which position and side of the paper would capture the most texture when printing up the "anti-squid" series. I wanted the appearance of this animal floating around in an unknown ether that may or may not exist in a dimension between worlds. In quantum physics there is a theory that there are 13 "layers" that make up the physical world we know and they are referred to as "branes" (short for membrane) but I thought the title "brane squid" sounded stupid. "Anti-squid" gives more of a reference to the theories of dark energy and dark matter. Not in the "bad" or "evil" sense but more on the "opposites" sense. Go read some on CERN.....

Sadly, I forgot my camera at this point and have printed up two more layers on this work. The picture below relays the latest layer on the series. I love how the eye came out and the lack of fins on the body at this point really makes them pop out in the prints! I now have to dissolve this entire piece into a flurry of "skin patches" that will be slightly bigger than the sparkling photophors. After I print that up it will be time to set up for the key block and my dusting hood for the final magic! Can't wait!

Monday, January 4, 2010


Well, the goal was 5 editions but I'm calling 4 out of 5 not bad! You'll notice that the images are not all centered. My good friend and artist Amanda Johnson suggested that I not center all of them because it would add interest and movement and I think she's right. I especially like Ensifer at the bottom left hand corner because he looks like he's going to crawl right off the page. Well, the first hurtle of printing is over but up next comes the type setting. I have a set of Fransiscan type that I purchased from NA Graphics and I've been dying to use it but god knows where I packed it during the move and I'll be nuts trying to find it but at least I might get a few more boxes resolved, bleh. The VABC might have some tasty accents like stars and such to add to the mix so I'm really excited to finish these out.
Now, back to carving squid photophors....

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Cold Push

After wading through a New Year's Day hangover, I set about my goal of beginning the final printing of my Trilobite Series for the show I have due in April. My goal was 5 editions for each trilobite I had the color block and key block finished for an edition of 30 prints each (so I would have to print 35 all together to account for mistakes). This was to be completed by the end of the weekend. I already had the paper cut and resting in my plastic humidor box. I had begun the printing back in October when I was intent on printing with my soil ink. That would have been such a great print. Alas, it was not in the stars and so rather than waste resources I dried out the remaining paper and set the project aside to deal with the hell of moving out of my studio. I still have the "ink" I processed from soil. Maybe one day I will print with it.

I got up this past Saturday and set up my printing station/drafting table. I have a canister of premade McClain's brand nori paste but when I reached for it I saw that it was getting on the low side. I decided that if I'm going to go with the Amazonite and Malachite pigments that I might as well roll out the process and cook up my own paste too. I had purchased a bag of rice starch that I keep in a cobalt blue apothecary jar and it that makes it feel like my little treasure. I'm still keeping an eye out for a suitable steamer trunk to keep all my preground pigments in so I can really pile on the atmosphere. I trotted down to the kitchen with my tattered copy of "Japanese Book Binding" by Kojiro Ikegami and my mysterious blue jar and my husband asked if I was cooking up potions today. I should have taken a picture of the nori steaming and bubbling away on my stove but the truth of the matter is I didn't want to photograph the spaghetti sauce stains that were splattered on the stove top as well!

Now, there have been several reasons that I have put off printing these little guys in the past. The number one reason was "What if the soil pigment didn't work?" and that reason has been scratched off because low and behold it didn't. The next was "I need to spend more time sketching and carving." True but time is a wasting and deadlines they are a coming. There was also "What if the paper doesn't work or the Malachite or Amazonite pigments don't work out? What if your registration is a nightmare?!?!" Well, the only way to know is to just get down to it.
I had forgotten that I had already printed up the color block for Norwoodia in Amazonite and those prints had been dried. Even though my kento should be on point I was nervous about rewetting prints that had been dry for a few months and expecting the key block to just line up like magic.....but you know what? It did. Yay! I took that as a good omen and so I began trucking along with my little print set up cranking out my army of 35 Norwoodia.

Here is Norwoodia peeking out from under his blanket of Kozo.

I was impressed at how deep and rich the Amazonite color was. It is a mineral native to Virginia and can be found in jewelry but Daniel Smith has taken to grinding it into pigment and I would have never thought that the color would be so vibrant. The light fastness is supposed to be superb and I'm glad because I'm always expecting colors like that to photo-degrade. Sadly, I don't think the pigment was from Virginia. I think it was from Russia but at least it is the same mineral.
Though the colors were as I expected them, I found them lack luster for some reason. In painting class, I remember being warned repeatedly that the colors change when they dry so that don't appear as vibrant in their dry phase as when with their wet phase. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked the prints more when they dried than when they were wet. The pigment took on a soft glow and lost the dull flatness it had when wet. I wonder if this is due to in part because they are mineral pigments. I'm more willing to bet that it is that special magic that Japanese Washi paper possesses. Colors just bounce and glow within it.
I was almost finished with the Norwoodia edition when it began to get cold in my little room. I thought this was due to handling all the wet paper and ink but upon inspecting the thermostat it was confirmed that our heat was on the fritz. Some people don't think 56 degrees is cold but I HATE being cold and consider the thermostat being on 72 a sacrifice for the sake of the planet. I'm getting a wood stove the first chance I get. Anyways, I felt like this would be another potential excuse. "Oops, the heat's not working pack it in and save it for another day that we can think of something else to procrastinate about." I had already wet all this paper and cooked up fresh nori. It was just time to make a kettle of hot tea and keep on truck'n.

Up next were the little tiny trilobites called Angnostoidea. These guys were somewhat of a pain because I was actually printing a grouping 6 trilobites and so had to watch the registration. Even though most of the time the Malachite (lighter shade) pigment printed up dark it was hard to see on the plate as it was very pale and I was worried that I didn't have enough pigment on. I'd add more and then worry if I was flooding the block.

At the end of the day, I had my two little armies of Agnostoidea and Norwoodia and I called it quits because my fingers were frozen. The next day I printed up one of my favorite trilobites Ensifer.

All of its wandering whipping appendages made me cringe with the registration ahead but all went well and I am happy with my small army of Ensifers.

I printed the color block for another of my trilobites but ran out of steam....and heat for the day. But tomorrow morning the trilobites and I will emerge well rested and ready for another day of printing!